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Hydro Power Reserve Will Stop Future Power Crises

Two power crises within a decade raises the possible need for a strategic hydro power reserve says a Waikato University researcher.

Dr Earl Bardsley, an Energy Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences, says New Zealand should investigate building a strategic hydro reserve as a "national insurance against hydro drought."

"We unfortunately learned little from the 1992 crisis," says Dr Bardsely.

"The low lake inflows then were dismissed as an unfortunate, but rare occurrence. We can either maintain the attitude that we are just unlucky to have experienced two power crises less that 10 years apart, or we can investigate the possibility that we are entering a different climatic regime where hydro crises occur far more regularly."

"We should move to develop buffers against electricity shortages," urges Dr Bardsley.

Dr Bardsley points out that creating a reserve would require a huge upfront investment, but once in place would protect New Zealand from future shortages.

"An environmentally-invisible solution would be to create a labyrinth of underground water storage caverns at high altitude beneath Fiordland. The idea being that the amount of reserve energy stored increases with the elevation of the stored water," suggests Dr Bardsley.

"The North Island does not have the good-quality granitic rocks needed for extensive cavern construction. However, a strategic hydro reserve of a different kind might be created by having a dense network of wells in position to extract the large groundwater reserves in the rocks to the east of Lake Taupo."

The mechanism of creating a strategic hydro reserve (in whatever form) could probably be achieved by modifying the electricity market to allow electricity utilities to earn income from creating and maintaining new hydro storage says Dr Bardsley.

ENDS

For further information contact:

Dr Earl Bardsley Department of Earth Sciences Phone: 07 856 2889 ext 5011 Home: 07 8561246.


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