Wind is a renewable and sustainable way to generate electricity. Because wind farms don't need fuel to operate they don't emit any greenhouse gases. They can be co-located with other land uses like farming and when they are dismantled there is no lasting impact on the environment.
Wind generation is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation. Wind farms do not take long to build and they have a long life span (usually around 25 years).
New Zealand has a fantastic wind resource, probably the best in the world. Wind energy will diversify New Zealand's energy portfolio. If the South Island hydro schemes have a dry year, wind energy can help out. Wind farms can directly benefit the local regions in which they exist - securing electricity supply and providing jobs.
Wind energy is the fastest growing form of energy generation in the world. The 2004 UMR Omnibus survey showed that over 80% of New Zealanders support wind energy.
A survey of the local community by MainPower in 2005 showed over 80% support for wind generation in the region.
A 2006 UK survey found a majority of people would be very happy to have a wind farm in their local area.
Rapid advances in technology mean today's turbines are relatively quiet. The main sound they make is a swooshing sound created by the blades moving through the air.
It is possible to hold a conversation even when standing directly beneath a working turbine.
There are strict standards in New Zealand governing the level of sound from wind turbines. The Standard states that the sound levels "measured at the boundary of any residential site must not exceed the greater of 40 decibels or background noise plus 5 decibels". 40 decibels is about the sound level experienced in a quiet public library or office.
To make the most of the wind, wind farms are usually located where the wind flows most freely like on the top of hills and ridges - meaning they are visible. Many people like how wind farms look, finding them elegant and graceful. Others are less supportive.
The visual impact of wind farms is highly subjective and therefore needs to be given careful consideration by developers and planners. Consultation with the community is a fundamental part of the process.
Wind farming is becoming increasingly popular with farmers in New Zealand because they can co-locate turbines with stock, which are not effected by them.
Some wind farms are associated with deaths of birds and bats. This mainly relates to Californian experience where large numbers of small turbines were placed in a migratory flight path. To date, the wind farms in New Zealand have experienced no problems. The Brooklyn turbine is sited next to a wildlife reserve but there have been no deaths noted in its ten year life. A few birds have been killed among the 103 turbine Tararua wind farm, the most frequent kills being magpies.
There are a number of strategies that can be undertaken to mitigate bird fatality including site selection to avoid migration routes.
Currently there are seven wind farms, with a total installed capacity of 170.8 MW, throughout New Zealand.
There are a number of other wind projects in the planning stage throughout New Zealand. A description of current and proposed windfarms can be found on the New Zealand Wind Energy Association website.
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