Since 2006, New Zealand’s energy sector has grappled with the legal and consent process of developing the country’s first tidal energy
generation project. Tidal energy utilizes the movement of ocean currents to spin underwater offshore turbines, thus generating electricity. While smaller demonstration tidal energy schemes have been developed off of New Zealand’s coastline, none have yet provided power plant-levels of electricity before, to help offset the country’s growing energy needs.
Now, Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson’s has finally granted approval for a large-scale tidal energy generation project in New Zealand. The contract is being awarded to Crest Energy
, who will oversee the installation of up to 200 tidal turbine generators in New Zealand’s Northland Kaipara Harbour. The total area to be covered is roughly 8km by 1 km, and will generate enough electricity when finished to power “everything above Auckland—from Albany to the Cape,” according to Crest Energy Director Anthony Hopkins.
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Now that the project has the green light to develop, Crest Energy is seeking investment, and predicts the first turbines to be installed within the next two years. The project in its entirety is expected to cost upward of $600 million in the first 10 years.
Investors with an interest in New Zealand tidal energy generation include the country’s wealthiest family, the Todd family.
Rumors are circulating that Irish company OpenHydro
will be supplying the tidal turbines for the project.
The installation process for the tidal turbines is to be phased gradually, as to allow for testing and monitoring throughout the project’s implementation to assure that environmental concerns are addressed. Three turbines will be installed first and monitored. “I am aware of concerns raised by submitters and believe the conditions set out would ensure any possible negative impacts can be properly monitored and accounted for,” said Conservation Minister Wilkinson. A public review process will be in place that could halt the project if environmental concerns are detected.