Alternative Energy Sources For New Zealand Environmental Sciences Essay

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With the rapid increase in population, the demand for energy too has increased. Governments are seeking various energy sources to deal with this essential everyday need. There is a high dependence of energy production on fossil fuels, which comes from coal, hydrocarbons, and natural gas. These usually come from ancient animal and plant remains (Wikipedia, 2007). To absorb the need for energy, these fossil fuels are burned and then refined in power plants. Electricity and transportation is the primary usage of this fuel. Fossil fuel is the main energy-producing source and contributes to 79.6% energy production (Wikipedia, 2007). These fuels, although are efficient, contribute to pollution which can cause environmental problems like global warming.

Global warming is defined as the gradual temperature increase globally, in which fossil fuel burning to produce energy, emits greenhouse gases and is therefore the current noted crisis (New Zealand Wind Energy Association, 2006). Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, sulphur hexafluoride, methane, hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), and per fluorocarbons (PFCs) are the main constituting gases of the greenhouse effect (Wikipedia, 2007). A few effects of the earth's temperature increase due to global warming can be seen by the rising sea levels in some areas, high storm risks and increase in natural disasters. Actions like the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce the global warming effect are taking place. Alternative sources of producing environmentally clean energy are being done to reduce carbon dioxide production, in countries like New Zealand.

In this essay, alternative energy sources for New Zealand will be focused. New Zealand is located on the southern side of the Pacific Ocean and is constituted by the two large and other linked small islands. Its total land area is 268,680 km, and out of the 4.1 million people, 78% are approximately European decedents (Wikipedia, 2007). Although the temperature drops to lower degrees in winter with windy conditions, the climate itself is sunny and mild year round.

Although, New Zealand uses sources like hydropower, its main source is fossil fuels, which account to 83% of the total energy generation (Wikipedia, 2007). The country also produces electricity from generating sources like gas, coal and geothermal energy. However, for New Zealand, nuclear energy is not an option as it has a greater installation and running cost. Moreover, problems like waste management, uranium supplies acquiring from Canada, are persistent problems that delimit New Zealand to choose nuclear energy.

The overall investments have increased in renewable sources of energy due to the increase of 15% in demand for clean energy, and the 13% increase in its consumption (Statistics New Zealand, 2007). New Zealand, is now trying to shift its dependency on fossil fuels by focusing on renewable energy sources like biomass, wind, and solar power, and investing in them to produce electricity. Therefore, it has changed its energy mix strategy, and is now more relying and investing more on renewable sources of energy.

Although Solar and wind energy usage is just 1%, it can provide suitable substitution for fossil fuels in New Zealand (The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 2006). The total emissions in the country of greenhouse gases have reached 77,945,000 tonnes (New Zealand Wind Energy Association, 2007). Therefore, using these renewable sources, New Zealand will be able to reduce its greenhouse gas emission. Moreover, it will enable New Zealand to provide clean energy, which will affect the global climatic changes and warming in a positive manner. The New Zealand Wind energy Association (2007), states that the wind projects in New Zealand are primarily to encourage its development and eliminate global warming's negative effects.

According to New Zealand Power Options (2007), the land has sufficient wind speed to implement the wind energy projects. However, the highest wind amount is on the Eastern side. Moreover, this source is only dependent on wind to operate and function, and therefore, will reduce the cost of generation. Hence, Wind Energy is quite suitable option for renewable energy.

Wind energy is dependent on wind and is generated in electricity by the electrical current from the turbine blades rotation (Wikipedia, 2007). Wind Energy can be produced on small scale by individual turbines, or on large-scale wind farms, but this is dependent on the necessity. The ideal location for a wind farm is an offshore area where the wind is uninterrupted and reaches its speediest point. This will ensure that the wind is produced efficiently. After the energy generation by the rotating turbines, undersea cables can carry it to the land.

Wind Power in New Zealand still has a lot of pros and cons. The con factors are that it is not sufficient, and efficient, if the wind speeds are not optimum. Nevertheless, the farms will be enough to provide electricity to multiple houses efficiently. If we take the example of the Lewis Wind Farm Project, in the UK, it supplies about 20% of the energy need in the country. The project has 53 wind turbines and is capable of producing 650 MW, and therefore is highly effective (British Wind Energy Association, 2006).

Moreover, although the wind power farms have a high cost of installation and functioning, they can provide cheaper and cleaner energy. If we compare wind energy to other sources, we find that it is cheaper than Nuclear Power. Moreover, according to the New Zealand Wind Energy Association (2007), with an increase in turbine technology, the cost of producing energy from wind turbines has decreased.

It is also thought that the wind farms will decrease the tourism value of the area and have a negative impact on the locals. According to recent studies, however, we find that in the newly developed regions of New Zealand the wind farms will have a positive impact on tourism. This is evident from the Tararua Ranges, which had a good appeal towards the locals (Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 2006). Moreover, they also served as a tourist attraction near the cities in case of the Palmerston North area.

The natural habitat of the area, like plants, animals, and bird species, are affected by the wind farms installation, and this poses a risk to the environment. In the case of the British Lewis wind power project, according to the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), the European protected wildlife network areas can be substantially affected, if the project is established in the area where there is bird protection.

This problem can be resolved, by decreasing number of turbines and relocating them from the natural habitat. This will decrease the threat to the wildlife. Therefore, to decrease the effect on the environment, the number of turbines in the British Lewis Wind Project was reduced to 181 according to the British Wind Energy Association.

Solar Energy is another alternative that New Zealand can use and is available abundantly. The absorption of sunlight energy is the technology behind solar energy (Wikipedia, 2007). Solar energy has various types that use suns radiations such as solar thermal, passive solar and photovoltaic electricity. In New Zealand however, photovoltaic electricity cell (PV) is highly recommended.

The photovoltaic electricity cells (PV) require exposing to the sun to convert solar energy into usable electricity. In New Zealand the annual sunshine is about 1600 hours to 2400 hours with main centres receiving about 200 hours (Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 2007). Therefore, a large amount of energy can be contributed by the total number of rooftops. Solar energy, like wind energy is clean and has no wastage or pollution problems, and has no hazardous emissions, and therefore is a potential option for replacing fossil fuels in New Zealand.

There are various arguments that are against and in favour of solar energy. Solar energy needs greater area coverage, like the California Solar Energy project cover about 4500 acres of land (Thomas, 2006). Nevertheless, studies show that if the solar project is constructed in a desert, occupying a smaller space it can supply greater amount of electricity. Seager (2006) stated that, if the world's deserts were used to implement concentrated solar power, the world's energy needs can be solved. Moreover, nuclear energy is now not as much and renewable sources provide 20% of the electricity in the world.

Solar energy is also thought to be a daytime effective energy. Nevertheless, new improvements in technology have enabled the solar energy to be sorted into night and day slots according to the amount required. In order to apprehend to the day and night requirements, the solar heat is sorted in thermal mass, which can be made available on demand (Renewable Energy Myths, 2006).

Solar energy is also considered to be expensive according to some companies, like the California Public Utilities Commission, had to approve $2.9 billion in order to increase the solar power production in the state (Butler, 2005). Nevertheless, cheaper options are available. The cost of generating electricity can be reduced by the solar energy. Solar equipments are less in cost as compared to other alternatives and the running cost is also low (Renewable Energy Myths, 2006). Solar energy is also considered as the best alternate to fossil fuels and is favourable for New Zealand.

Energy is a fundamental need and the use of fossil fuels, even though it is reliable and efficient, causes greenhouse gases and is responsible for environmental problems like global warming, and they are finite. New Zealand too is looking for other alternatives and according to its climate and geography solar and wind energy are acceptable solutions. Both these alternatives complement each other.

The wind speed in the eastern side of New Zealand is adequate, and reliance on these technologies will make New Zealand more independent that will result in a reduction of the global warming threats from fossil fuel emissions.