Waikato University is Helping New Zealand Move to 100% Renewable Energy
“The Government will invest $30 million into investigating a proposed hydro storage scheme at Lake Onslow in the South Island, a concept developed by Associate Professor Earl Bardsley from the University of Waikato.” Says Waikato University
These system will significantly expand New Zealand’s hydroelectric storage capacity, providing power when other renewable energy sources are running low.
Dr Bardsley began researching the idea back in 2004 after becoming concerned about the use of natural lakes, such as Tekapo and Pukaki, for hydro storage.
“A soft–shored, beautiful, natural lake is not really the best place to have seasonal hydro storage,” says Dr Bardsley. “So my motivation back then was just to look around and find out if we could use pumped storage somewhere else to store water for hydroelectricity”
“The only place in the country that I could find for large–scale storage was the Onslow basin. It’s a rock basin, so you can have lake water going up and down and it’s not going to erode the shoreline. He says that this lake could take away the energy storage burden from Pukaki lake and Tekapo lake.
However, building this hydro storage facility will need an increased area of the Onslow reservoir. This means that some wetlands will get flooded, but Dr Bardsley says there could be solutions to this.
Dr Bardsley has suggested that Onslow’s wetlands could be transplanted onto an artificial floating structure, which would then move up and down with the lake level. “And perhaps we could then have more wetlands area than we had before.” Says Dr Bardsley
“They’re going to have one year for a business case. They’ve allocated $30 million to that, most of which is likely to be spent on Onslow evaluations. If they pass that, there is another $70 million already allocated for more geotechnical studies,” says Dr Bardsley. “If Onslow is the selected option two years on, they will make a decision as to whether to go ahead and start building. That’s when something like $4 billion will need to be spent.”
Although an expensive project, Onslow pumped storage will lead to cheaper power long term, because having a large amount of stored energy drives down prices.