How sustainable is hydropower on the South Island of New Zealand?
Wednesday, July 8, 2009 - 15:30
Georgia correspondent Daryl Weinhoff is blogging about her study abroad experience in New Zealand this summer.
Recently, the South Island of New Zealand has relied heavily on hydropower as an alternative energy source; however, given New Zealand's increasing energy use, this is rapidly becoming a less viable option.
Although a big advantage of hydropower is the fact that there are no carbon emissions, there are also some disadvantages. The maintenance and upkeep required for the dams due to the collection of silt and sediment is a lot more than people would like to deal with. Secondly, the change of the ecology in the wetlands and the braided river system has proven to be more harmful than beneficial. According to James Glennie, "electricity use reached an all-time high in New Zealand last week -- 92 percent of total capacity. At the same time hydro lake levels are 10 percent below average." This goes to show that the residents of the South Island need to think of other options for energy other than hydropower.
Other alternative options for energy production in New Zealand are solar, tidal, geothermal and wind power. Although geothermal does produce a good amount of energy for the North Island, it would not be a viable option for the South Island. This is due to the fact that the hot spots are currently situated underneath the North Island and the plates would not shift for thousands to millions of years. One of the main advantages of wind power is that wind is a renewable resource. Also, wind energy does not require fuel; therefore it does not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, major downfalls of this alternative are problems with birds getting caught in the turbines, and 50 percent of the energy from the turbines being lost to noise.
The Department of Conservation as well as various scientists throughout New Zealand are currently researching ways to best utilize various alternative energy sources. The DOC will hopefully be coming up with many different options for how to effectively increase the amount of energy while still reducing carbon emissions, thereby helping to make New Zealand more green than it already is.
Photos: Daryl Weinhoff
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