Hydroelectric Power Generation in New Zealand
Hydroelectric power is electricity that is generated using water held behind a dam. The pressure resulting from the water is used to drive huge turbines which turn generators that produce electricity. The technology is being used throughout the world. However, New Zealand has been using the technology for over a century now and continues to supply almost half of the country’s electricity needs.
The Waipori Scheme was New Zealand’s first renewable hydroelectric power station situated at Lake Coleridge. The county’s efforts to invest heavily in hydroelectric power resulted in more than 1,000 MW of electrical power by the early 1950s. New Zealand also adopted a pilot project of HVDC transmission dubbed the HVDC Inter-Island, which connected both North Island and South Island by 1965.
Other successful projects include the 848 MW Upper Waitaki River completed in 1985, the 700 MW Manapouri Power Station completed in 1971, and the 432 MW Clyde Dam Project in 1992. By the mid-1990s, New Zealand had built over 5,000 MW of hydroelectric power generation stations. The hydroelectric power injected to the national grid still remains at over 5,000 MW to date.
The country is currently sourcing its 57% of electrical energy from hydroelectric power projects and about 11% from imported oil. The most significant factor that led to the decline in the development of hydroelectric power in New Zealand since 1990s is the stiff competition from relatively cheap gas and coal power plants. However, the government has commissioned massive hydroelectric power projects especially at the Central Plateau and MacKenzie Basin regions of North and South Islands respectively.
There are a number of proposed hydroelectric power generation projects that have been approved by the government. This is one of the government strategies to invest in renewable energy which has become a global trend. Some of the proposed projects includes The Project Aqua, the Wairau Hydro Scheme and extension of the Arnold Power Station.
Despite the need to fully adopt hydroelectric power generation in New Zealand, there has been criticism associated with the environmental impact of the generation method. For instance the Lake Manapouri power station raised some concerns leading to demonstrations. Some environmentalists also claim that the endangered Black Stilt has dramatically been affected by the changes in the South Island river beds.
Generally, hydroelectric power is one of the most convenient source of green and renewable energy. The ever rising demand for electrical energy can easily be met through hydroelectric power generation.