Solar wind sculptures

windturbine.gif Time to nail my colours to the tall thing. Submissions on Mainpower’s Mt Cass windfarm consent application close on August 1st, and I’m running out of time to get one in (being busy, and all that). The opposition is getting itself organised, with a web site to co-ordinate dissenters, including a very nice gallery of pictures. I know (and love) this sort of landscape. I live in it.

I have some sympathy for the guys running the site, because I organised/designed/published the “Dump The Dump” web site for opponents of the Kate Valley landfill scheme. We lost, despite generating a record number of opposing submissions. I even did a presentation to the consent hearing, and got a mention in the final judgement. I still think we could have defeated the dump if we’d taken the issue to Christchurch, rather than kept it local and “played by the rules”…

I won’t be doing that this time. I will be submitting in support of Mainpower’s scheme, even though the resulting wind turbines will be clearly visible from my veranda. My rationale runs like this. As someone who thinks we have to do our bit to reduce carbon emissions I am in favour of renewable energy development, and wind is key part of that. I am in favour of local generation on a macro and micro scale. Development at Mt Cass will be good for the local economy, and – in the longer run – good for the marketing of the Waipara Valley as a region which takes carbon reduction seriously (think selling wine in Europe). Mainpower want a consent for a “design envelope”, allowing them to choose between a large number of small turbines, or fewer large ones. I think they should build the large ones, even though they will be more visible and will say so in my submission. This will have the same impact on the site as lots of little ones, but will help to reduce the need for more turbines in prettier places. We need to make the most of good sites, to save the iconic ones. I will also be asking that Mainpower be required to beef up its site protection provisions, particularly to ensure that the design of roadways has least possible impact, and that they increase the provision of biodiversity offsets. If they could undertake to protect an equivalent area of similar ecology in the region to offset the damage caused at Mt Cass, that would be a good first step. A large cheque for the Waipara River Protection Group would be useful too… 😉

Now all I have to do is write the damn thing. First, there’s an article on forest carbon sequestration to finish, bills to pay, talks to prepare…

7 thoughts on “Solar wind sculptures”

  1. I think you’re right that fewer large turbines are a better option than many small ones. With a bit of thought, one ought to be able to site the fewer larger turbines such that these lead to less environmental damage than many small ones would. Whether this will actually happen, however, is debatable.

    Mainpower wants to reserve the right to decide where to place its turbines such that they could be up to 200m away from where they appear on its plans. This in itself is not so much an issue as the reasons it gives for wanting this flexibility. It wants this flexibility in order “to accommodate the actual ground conditions uncovered during the detailed design, geotechnical or construction process”. If I thought that Mainpower would use this flexibility to minimise environmental damage rather than to make its turbines cheaper to build, I’d feel more reassured.

    Another thing that worries me is the blind spot in Mainpower’s proposal for minimising damage to the threatened Canterbury gecko population. They plan to carry out a trap and transfer programme using Artificial Cover Objects (ACO) to catch geckos prior to construction (see Ecological Assessment p 81-82). However previous experience with ACO suggests that this particular species can’t actually be caught this way (p 51). They need to go back to the drawing board on this one.

    But in broad terms I agree with your line of thought – fewer (larger) turbines and constraints to ensure that Mainpower limits and offsets the damage it does.

  2. Hi Gareth

    What can I say – but…… thanks.

    You have made a considered choice and I think the right one. But, then I would say that, wouldn’t I.

    I had forgotten how deeply involved with the Kate Valley consent you were..which must have made it a bit harder for you (in the development in my peaceful valley sense) and many others in Waipara. Fortunately (for us) it seems that most people in the area see a windfarm as a different proposition to a landfill.

    Thanking you


  3. Jim

    I can see how this concern has arisen and I believe I can offer some solace.

    Factors that will influence micrositing are detailed wind modelling (avoid turbulent zones), geotech (as you point out) and detailed ecological survey (this is mentioned in the ecology report).

    However, we accept that the maximum clearance areas we have put forward in the ecology report won’t be exceeded. Hence we won’t be able to move a turbine from pasture to bush without avoiding an equivalent area of bush somewhere else in the mix.

    Besides – I haven’t spent weeks of my life and a pile of money on consultants (wind, ecology and civil) in improving the layout (ecologically speaking) only to see it all undone later by some hash job of changes.

    Your point on the ACO’s and gecko’s is noted – I’ll put it back to the herpetologists.

    It did strike me as a bit odd that on the one hand there is this great concern over gecko habitat and on the other hand it is expected that they will choose to roost between two layers of bitumen impregnated corrugated cardboard. Perhaps the gecko’s know more than the experts.

  4. Are we still ignoring one cause of the things that threaten the human community.

    Based upon what we can see now, and understand from so many discussions in the Hot Topic Blog, would it be correct to say unequivocally that an increasing food supply for the human species is the essential factor producing the recent skyrocketing increase of absolute global human population numbers?

    Until this relationship is seen (ie, food is the independent variable and human population numbers is the dependent variable), and its implications understood and accepted, the human community cannot respond ably to the global challenges that are looming ominously on the far horizon, I believe. The family of humanity will continue its necessary but insufficient projects at “symptom mitigation” of the global threats without ever taking hold of what is actually causing our difficulties and threatening our very existence. We can identify the problem. We are it.

    If the skyrocketing growth of human numbers worldwide is THE number one problem to be confronted by the human community in our time, then ideas for humanely reducing human population numbers makes good sense, I suppose.

    To have continuously denied the seminal work of Thomas Malthus and to have castigated the great scientists who have extended his thinking and improved our understanding; to have adamantly demanded that the relationship between food and human population numbers be seen conversely, will be acknowledged as the greatest failure of human perception in human history. At least to me, the implications of this potentially catastrophic perceptual error (ie, human population numbers is the independent variable and food supply the dependent variable) appear to be profound and could have something to do with the existence of the culturally derived functional insanity in the thinking of the leaders of the global political economy and their manipulation of many minions in the mass media who are mainstreaming this primary misperception and other economically expedient and politically convenient mistaken impressions to people everywhere.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

  5. Steve S
    Then I implore you to do something about the numbers on the planet, commit suicide to help us out, or are you in the half that should survive?

    How do you propose to reduce the population, Chinese 1 child regulation? How about stopping sending aid to the third world, that is where excess breeding occurs and when there is no food to feed these countries.

    I am happy to be one of the well fed people who will not starve.

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