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Climate-energy workshop attracts attention

Climate-energy workshop attracts attention

Workshop participants: (left to right) Dennis Jamieson, Doug Goodwin, Dr Michael Uddstrom, Dr Jim Renwick.

Dennis Jamieson (leader, National Centre for Climate-Energy Solutions), Doug Goodwin (System Operator Development Manager, Transpower), Dr Michael Uddstrom (NIWA principal scientist), Dr Jim Renwick (NIWA principal scientist & leader of this research programme), at NIWA’s 3rd technical workshop on climate-related risks for energy supply and demand.
The workshop was held under the auspices of NIWA’s Climate-related Risks for E

Hydro lakes: situation improves

Hydro lakes: situation improves

Lake Pupuke

New Zealand’s hydroelectric lake storage received a very timely boost during the first two weeks of January. This is shown clearly in M-co updates and NIWA monitoring. Without normal winter snow volumes to melt, the source of the water was heavy northwesterly rainfall in the Southern Alps. Thanks to the rain, total storage was boosted from a low 60% of normal to 90% by mid-January. Storage was 85% of normal at the end of the month. This will be very welcome in readiness for the winter electricity demand.

A surprising source of methane

A surprising source of methane
Last month, the prestigious science journal Nature published the remarkable discovery that terrestrial plants emit methane. The results came from a series of carefully controlled experiments by European researchers led by Dr Frank Keppler of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics.
Nature asked NIWA atmospheric chemist Dr David Lowe to provide expert commentary. Here Dave does the same for us.
How significant is this finding?
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. It traps more than 20 times as much heat per molecule as carbon dioxide.

Monitoring toxic hydrocarbons in Auckland's air

Monitoring toxic hydrocarbons in Auckland's air

Auckland smog.

Toxic volatile hydrocarbons (known as VOCs) are emitted by vehicles and pose health risks for people breathing urban air.
The Ministry for the Environment has identified four VOCs in petrol – benzene; 1,3-butadiene; formaldehyde; and acetaldehyde – as 'priority organic contaminants' for monitoring.
The Auckland Regional Council has contracted NIWA to conduct the first long-term continuous monitoring of benzene and 1,3-butadiene in this country.

Hydro lake storage: early signs of concern

Lake Tekapo

Spring and summer are the usual fill-up seasons for the Southern Alps hydroelectric reservoirs, with Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo representing 55% of the country’s hydropower storage. The third largest hydro-storage lake (Lake Taupo) relies more on winter rainfall recharge.
NIWA is predicting normal rainfall in the Southern Alps for November-January, but normal to slightly-below-normal river flows into the Southern Alps' hydroelectric storage due to less spring-summer snowmelt from the recent poor snow season.

Bury it down a deep hole

Bury it down a deep hole
Capturing carbon dioxide from large point-sources, such as power stations, and storing it in carefully selected deep geological reservoirs may form a significant part of a portfolio of future greenhouse gas mitigation measures.

Cold temperature specs for fuel products

Cold temperature specs for fuel products

Analysing maps of extreme minimum temperatures allows Shell NZ Ltd to estimate the risk of fuel freezing, and hence helps them to set specification limits for different fuels being stored around the country.
NIWA was recently asked to produce several maps showing the nationwide patterns of minimum temperatures for the winter and spring months. One of the maps, the 10th percentile extreme minimum air temperature for the month of July, is shown here.

Giving biogas a good scrub

Giving biogas a good scrub

We are currently investigating biogas generation for energy production, using anaerobic ponds at Ruakura. In one recent experiment, with the University of Auckland, we tested ways to 'scrub' the gas.
The biogas produced in the anaerobic digestion phase of sewage treatment contains 50-70% methane.

NIWA helps Auckland's big clean up

NIWA helps Auckland's big clean up

Last month, NIWA measured the exhaust emissions of about 50 000 cars in Auckland, as part of the regional council’s ‘Big Clean Up’ campaign.
When a car drives past our gear, an electronic sign tells the drivers whether their emissions are ‘good’, ‘fair’, or ‘poor’. Vehicles rating ‘poor’ were in the highest polluting 10% of the Auckland fleet, and the ARC has been writing to owners, encouraging them to tune their car.

Tackling wind variability

Tackling wind variability
One of the most critical issues for energy generation is reliability of supply. Rainfall, and hydropower generation, has a marked seasonality in New Zealand, which is overcome somewhat if water can be stored in lakes or reservoirs. The strength and consistency of wind can also be seasonal and often the highest wind speeds occur when rainfall and stream flows are lowest.
Such happy symmetry suggests some parts of the country are well suited to a mixture of wind and hydro generation.
But the wind also blows more on some days than on others.

Rapid assessment of potential wind energy sites

Rapid assessment of potential wind energy sites

New Zealand’s variable terrain and climate mean it’s almost always necessary to combine existing data with specific measurements at a potential wind farm site.
In addition to conventional meteorological instruments, NIWA has built a transportable Doppler Acoustic Sounder unit, known as a SODAR (‘sonic detection and ranging’). The SODAR produces high-resolution vertical profiles of wind speed and direction.

Wind on the ice

Wind on the ice

At the moment, electricity for Scott Base, Antarctica, is generated from imported fuel which is costly and has to be handled with care. NIWA has provided Meridian Energy with full instrumentation to monitor the wind at Scott Base for a year. The project is being undertaken in partnership with Antarctica NZ, and is designed to determine whether wind energy could be used on a small scale for some electricity generation on the ice.
The wind monitoring project uses a 20-metre high mast.

More power down the line

More power down the line

NIWA staff recently spent about 20 days in the backblocks providing meteorological measurements for line surveys commissioned by Transpower. The aim is to get maximum use out of the existing lines and to increase the reliability of the power supply.
Transpower wants to know how much extra power it can put down the lines before the lines sag so much (as a result of heating up) that they get too close to roads, buildings, trees, and the like.

Data for the electricity market

Each day, NIWA delivers vital hydrological data to M-co, the company that provides information services to the New Zealand electricity market.
Lake level, canal flow, and other generation data are transferred electronically to NIWA’s Christchurch office, where they are processed and sent to M-co.
Such information matters because, on average, 70% of the country’s electricity comes from hydro. Careful management of lake levels is crucial to the electricity supply as lake storage volumes are not large by international standards and inflows vary dramatically.

Putting cars through their paces

Putting cars through their paces

Staff from key central government agencies and the regional council took the opportunity to see NIWA’s remote sensing of vehicle emissions in operation.

NIWA recently measured the exhaust emissions of almost 10 000 vehicles in Wellington.
The remote sensing technology owned by NIWA measures the emissions in real life driving situations. Drivers do not have to alter their speed or route.

New centre leader

New centre leader

Dennis Jamieson is the new leader of the National Centre for Climate-Energy Solutions.
Dennis has a background in engineering and the commercial application of technology. He is involved in energy and water resource projects in New Zealand and offshore.
The Centre recognises that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are primarily the result of inefficient use of energy, and seeks to attack climate change at its source.

Wind speed on CD

Wind speed on CD
NIWA has produced a CD with wind speed data for the whole of New Zealand.
The data have a number of applications, including the identification of sites that are suitable for wind power generation. They show wind speed at 10 m above the ground and have been derived from records from over 160 climate stations covering the period 1971 to 2000.

Hydro and wind powers up

Hydro and wind powers up
Electricity generation by hydro and wind has just set a new record.
According to Statistics New Zealand, hydro and wind generation reached 7663 gigawatt hours in the September 2004 quarter – the highest quarterly volume ever recorded. Thermal generation, by contrast, stood at 3092 gigawatt hours, which is 26% lower than in the September 2003 quarter.
The September quarter figures show electricity generation for hydro and wind was 27.4% higher than in the same period last year.

International collaboration

International collaboration
Dr Hu Guoquan from the China Meteorological Administration (left) recently spent two months working with Dr Greg Bodeker from NIWA on modelling climate change. They are pictured here inside NIWA’s base at Lauder, Central Otago, which specialises in atmospheric research.

Dr Hu and Dr Bodeker.

Dr Hu and Dr Bodeker were looking at the extent to which different groups of countries have contributed, or will be contributing, to global climate change based on their greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon dioxide levels rising fast in New Zealand too

Carbon dioxide levels rising fast in New Zealand too
Carbon dioxide levels are rising fast here, though not quite as fast as those recently reported for Hawaii.
Reports on CO2 data from Mauna Loa, Hawaii, state that the recent growth rate there is averaging 1.5 parts per million (ppm) per year, but the rate exceeded 2 ppm in both 2002 and 2003.

NIWA scientists have been measuring CO2 concentrations at Baring Head near Wellington since 1973.

New project to develop wave energy device

New project to develop wave energy device
We are working with Industrial Research Ltd and Power Projects Ltd on a complex project to develop a prototype device to generate electricity from open water ocean waves.
It only takes a passing familiarity with New Zealand’s coasts to appreciate the immense power contained in ocean waves, but this is not an enterprise to be entered into lightly. The wave energy generator must survive in a harsh, corrosive, constantly moving environment.
There needs to be enough energy to make the device economic, but not too much so that it is destroyed.

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