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New Zealand Items of Interest

April 8, 2011

I have been back from New Zealand for about six weeks, and thought you would be interested in some items of interest that may not be mentioned in tour books.

New Zealand has been overrun by possum.  There are so many possum that metal flashing, about 15 inches wide, has been installed on telephone poles; encircling the pole so that possum can’t climb the pole to reach the electric wiring.

While our utilities worry about squirrels, New Zealand’s has to protect against possum.

The Fox glacier started retreating around 1750, near the end of the Little Ice Age. It started advancing again in the mid-1900s, extending itself by around 1,100 feet. It then retreated a little, and has been advancing and retreating since the late 1900s based on the amount of snowfall feeding the glacier. Annual snowfall on the mountains feeding the glaciers is around 200 feet.

I could find no correlation between CO2 emissions and the actions of the Fox glacier.

Maori’s represent around 25% of New Zealand’s population. Their beliefs have an effect on developing geothermal power. Many of the geothermal areas are sacred and are a part of Maori history.

The last eruption of Mount Tarawera occurred in 1886. Legend has it that visitors saw a war canoe with warriors paddling in the lake the day before the eruption and that the canoe was longer than any ever seen in the area. When the visitors called to the warriors in the canoe, there was no reply. The vanishing canoe was seen as an omen of impending disaster. The ensuing eruption buried villages and killed around 200 people.

Legends such as this have to be taken into consideration when planning the development of geothermal power in New Zealand, and possibly in Hawaii.

Air conditioning is in short supply in New Zealand. Temperatures, especially around Auckland, can be toasty during summer months. The South Island, with its mountains, especially on the Western side, tends to have cool nights and warm days. The scarcity of air conditioning affects the electric load, though it appears as though heat pumps are now becoming more common which will mean an increasing load on the electrical system.

The paucity of air conditioning during hot summer days can come as a shock to those who are used to air conditioning.

New Zealand may be the world leader in demand side management. Electric hot water heaters are very common in New Zealand, and the power company uses ripple control of hot water heaters to control peak loads.

People are friendly and very accommodating. Every aspect of nature is spectacular. It’s a wonderful place to visit.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2011 7:54 pm

    hi Don,
    I have been reading this article with interest and would like to add a few comments
    as an environmental engineer , resident since 5 y, i worry about the lurging energy crises in NZ. More than 75 % of all buildings use electricity for hot water and very ineffieicnt space heating. Households prices for electricity increased 60 % i n10 years time and it is still increasing as we speak .
    NZ energy use and dependancy from imported oil is high considering that NZ has the 2 th highest addiction to cars. So the whole economy of NZ is vulnerable because of very inefficient electricity ise , growing fuelpoverty and lower income families , uncontrollable petrol prices. On top of that most of the houses are not well insulated , mold and moisture created > 600,000 sick people (allergy-asthma) and the quality of the houses can be compared with scandinavian houses in 1960 period.
    NZ has a long way to go and needs a Repower NZ plan urgently because the NZ energy outlook form government is business as usual and not ambitious . This cost driven society is very dissappointing if you compare technologies with state ofthe art worldwide.
    Many regards,
    eric jansseune
    lecturer AUT on advanced solar energy
    envrionmental engineer from Belgium

  2. June 26, 2011 6:03 pm

    I’m afraid that Eric Jansseune has got some of his facts wrong.

    Something like 90% of New Zealand homes have electric storage water heating. Most of this (it used to be all of it) is controlled by “ripple relays” that can turn the water heating off during peak demand periods. If this is used as it was designed to be–and once was–New Zealand can reduce its peak demand by something like 10% over the critical periods. This is probably the most advanced use of “demand-side management” in the world. These water heaters are very well insulated and this is a very efficient use of electricity.

    More and more, electric heating is carried out using heat pumps. It is more efficient to burn gas in a modern power station to drive a heat pump than it is to use gas directly for heating. New Zealand houses use a lot of electricity, and, in the main, they use it efficiently. New Zealand has a very high take-up of energy efficient lightbulbs. Without any compulsion!

    New Zealanders use cars a lot, because they are fortunate to be able to live in an under populated country. Cars are very efficient solution to the transport problem.

    The same research that claimed that hundreds of thousands of people thought they would be better off in a warm house, also reported very little illness as a result of living in colder houses. But this aspect of the research was ignored.

    We do have one problem–ever increasing electricity prices. But that is because we have a crazy electricity market, not because it needs to be that expensive. This hits the poor people hardest.

    Finally, New Zealand sources more than 60% of its energy from “renewable” resources. How many other countries do this? But now we cannot continue to do so well because the greenies campaign against every proposal for a new hydropower station.

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