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Making the most of renewable energy sources

December 11, 2006

Making the most of renewable energy sources

PALMERSTON NORTH – New Zealand could produce all the electricity and biofuel it needs from its own renewable resources within 30 years, says Professor Ralph Sims.

Professor Sims, director of the University’s Centre for Energy Research, says that suggestions made in the Government’s draft energy strategy issued today should be acted upon immediately.

“New Zealand is lucky enough to have all the renewable resources its needs right now, but we need to concentrate the research and expertise currently available to use these resources economically,” he says.

Rooftop solar water heaters, identified in the strategy as an area to enhance, are very practical inventions that every new house should be obliged to install.

“They are an example of technology that is already at a good level of efficiency, and which anyone can work with to make an immediate impact on a national and global level."

When it comes to comparatively recent areas of renewable energy technology however, such as wave or tidal-based generators, New Zealand is best to collaborate with international research organisations.

“We have an amazing amount of potential tidal power and there are a lot of plans out there to harness this energy, but the technology is not yet proven. The best thing would be for New Zealand to join the International Energy Agency’s ocean agreement, which shares research."

Of wind power, he says that although wind is not predictable, there are ways of working smarter with wind, through better forecasting and weather stations, and by combining wind and hydro-power.

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Of the strategy’s plan to introduce renewable fuel for private transport, he says New Zealand drivers can expect Gull service stations to sell biodiesel blends in the next six months, as they currently do in Western Australia.

“At least 7 per cent of the total diesel currently used could be substituted with a blend made from tallow, a waste product of our primary industries, and there is much potential in crops such as willow from which to make ethanol."

He says it is important that resources used to make biofuels come from renewable sources, unlike palm oil used in Australia, which is largely imported from Malaysia where rainforest is felled to grow palms.

He says the strategy’s consideration of Resource Management Act’s consent applications is pertinent, as it has become increasingly difficult for groups to get wind and geothermal electricity generation projects approved.

“Applications need to be considered on a national scale, where the benefits of a project to the nation, and to the rest of the world, outweigh the negative effects put forward by a small group of people who object to a proposal."


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