A discussion paper released by regional development agency Venture Taranaki has highlighted offshore wind as an important clean energy opportunity for New Zealand and has called for further investigation of its potential
The paper, Offshore Wind – An Energy Opportunity for Taranaki, identified locations off the Taranaki coastline, especially South Taranaki, as having promising potential for generating electricity from offshore wind, based on the strength of the wind resource and water depths there.
“Taranaki’s experience in the marine energy environment also makes it a natural fit for this renewable energy source,” said the authors of the report.
The paper highlights opportunities and hurdles in making offshore wind a reality in New Zealand, including the infrastructure and processes required, consumer demand and economics, the technology involved, international developments and a broad range of social, environmental, regulatory and other considerations which would need to be assessed in more detail.
Venture Taranaki chief executive Justine Gilliland said, “If New Zealand is to realise its low emission energy goals and meet future energy needs, we will need to look beyond current efforts.
“Offshore wind generation is already in effect internationally, but hasn’t been fully explored in a New Zealand context. This discussion paper offers a first step in that process and supports the Energy Pathway Action Plan for Taranaki’s 2050 Roadmap.”
The investigation by Venture Taranaki and Taranaki-based Elemental Group explored fixed and floating wind turbines as well as two indicative development scenarios – a 200-MW windfarm and an 800-MW windfarm – utilising 7-8 MW turbines.
Elemental Group director Andrew Revfeim said, “These scenarios were chosen on the basis that a 200-MW windfarm would be indicative of a minimum size that could likely be developed and connected to the New Zealand electricity grid, while an 800-MW windfarm is indicative of what could be developed in association with a large-scale industrial customer, for example a green hydrogen production plant. Offshore wind energy generation is a proven technology being rapidly developed and harnessed internationally. Costs are reducing significantly.”
The paper highlighted areas potentially suitable for bottom-fixed turbines. An 1,800 km2 area off the South Taranaki coast could accommodate up to 12 GW, while a 370-km2 area off North Taranaki could host 2.4 GW. Together these would almost effectively double New Zealand’s electricity supply.
If floating wind turbines were utilised, a further 14,000 km2 of suitable area could be developed, with the potential to deliver an additional 90 GW.
“This is a considerable resource and if fully developed could provide sufficient, sustainable energy for New Zealand to meet its projected needs for the next three decades,” said Ms Gilliland.
“It could also open opportunities for energy exports and help New Zealand and Taranaki contribute to the reduction of global emissions. It is an energy resource that has the potential to be globally significant.
“We expect there will be a range of responses to the idea of wind energy generation off our coastline, and many steps would be required before any developments occur.”
These steps range from solving the engineering issues to support vessel provision during construction and maintenance to regulatory implications, environmental considerations, the economics of investment as well as cultural and community buy-in.
“There is a real opportunity to grow offshore wind as a renewable energy resource that could provide large quantities of low-cost clean energy, while using many of the complementary skills and resources that service the existing energy sector in New Zealand,” said Ms Gilliland.
“In terms of skills, bathymetry and wind resource, Taranaki is perfectly positioned to lead New Zealand in the development of offshore wind energy generation. This paper presents the first step of many by identifying the resource and proposing its potential to make a significant and positive impact on New Zealand’s energy landscape.”