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We’ve got the power

While Wairarapa – and New Zealand as a whole – has been working towards a goal of 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030, Sweden has dumped its equivalent plan and is now opting to increase its nuclear power capacity in pursuit of a goal of net-zero emissions from power generation.

Sweden changed its electricity mix target from “100 per cent renewable” to “100 per cent fossil-free” last week – reportedly paving the way for new nuclear reactors to be built. It’s among a large group of European Union nations that have joined France’s “informal pro-nuclear power bloc”, according to international media reports.

Swedish Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson has told Sweden’s parliament that the move “creates conditions for nuclear power,” adding that the country “needs clean electricity and a stable energy system”.

A spokesperson for Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods said no consideration will be given to nuclear power in New Zealand, and further questioning was referred to the Ministry of Business and Innovation [MBIE].

While the nation is working towards its goal of 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030, the government has also committed to reaching net zero for long-lived gases by 2050, and set a target that 50 per cent of total energy consumption will come from renewable sources by 2035.

In the meantime, Wairarapa is already booming with renewable power projects, current and planned.

The first publicly-owned hydroelectric power station to be built in the region was the Kourarau Hydro-electric Power Scheme, which was first established in 1923 by the Wairarapa Electric Power Board.

According to Engineering New Zealand, the stations still operate with their original machinery today.

Trust House took ownership of the 1-megawatt scheme in 2011.

The scheme has an installed capacity of 910 kilowatts, which is capable of producing, when running at full operational capacity, about 250 to 300kW of electricity a year – the equivalent of about 400 homes.

Also in operation is the Genesis Energy-owned Hau Nui wind farm in the hills of Martinborough.

Genesis Energy said the South Wairarapa area is known for its “significant wind energy potential”, and the Hau Nui site is recognised as “one of the best wind farm sites in the world”.

A 2001 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority report cited Wairarapa’s hills and coastal area as having the second highest potential energy output in New Zealand.

The first seven of the wind farms’ 15 turbines were installed in 1996, and the final eight turbines were installed in 2004.

A windfarm further north – Mt Munro – is currently going through a consenting process for a second time.

The Meridian Energy project promises to generate enough electricity to power 42,000 homes through 20 turbines.

Meridian head of renewable development Rebecca Knott said investment in renewable energy assets is “critical to achieving Aotearoa’s climate change, social and economic goals”, and claimed that wind farms like Mt Munro are essential in reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

In late March, Genesis Energy said it was seeking an extension to resource consents that will reduce the scale of its proposed Castle Hill Wind Farm project.

In 2013, Genesis was granted resource consents for the wind farm project by the Tararua District Council, Masterton District Council, Horizons Regional Council, and Greater Wellington Regional Council. They allowed Genesis to build and operate a wind farm with up to 286 wind turbines and a potential renewable electricity generation capacity of up to 860 MW.

The proposed reduction in scale would enable a wind farm of 71 turbines with a capacity in the order of 300 MW.

The consents have a 10-year lapse date and are due to lapse this month.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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