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New Zealand

New Zealand

TECHNICIANS FELT TO LACK MARKET VISION

A seminar in New Zealand held to discuss the country's wind energy scene disappointed its organiser in that it saw lots of technical discussion, but precious little interest in exploiting the potential of the world market.

Tom Evison, chairman of the Technology Section of the Royal Society Wellington Branch, had been encouraged to hold the meeting in Wellington by the enthusiasm shown by participants at a previous meeting. "My vision was a joining together of skills," he says. "Investment skills, manufacturing skills, technical skills, scientific skills, to develop the components of a New Zealand product which could win major contracts in a wide market."

About 50 people from around the country attended the meeting. While the bulk had a technical interest in wind, Evison had also invited a number of potential investors, including representatives from some of the country's major banks. As an industrial marketing consultant, Evison was keen to gather people with the right skills to make New Zealand a wind technology exporter. "What bank is going to fork out five million dollars for development without a customer in sight?" he asks.

Discussion at the meeting was animated, but it focused on the technical detail of getting wind plant up and going in New Zealand. Evison, though, was keen to highlight the broad potential, pointing to the country's high speed winds as providing an excellent testing ground for the whole of the Asia Pacific region.

While Evison' priority was to find overseas clients first and undertake development second, Keith Dawber of Otago University considers it necessary to sell in the local market first to prove the technology. He says wind in New Zealand suffers from the current electricity pricing regime which can deliver power to the consumer for around $NZ0.08/kWh. "Nobody can deliver wind power at that sort of price unless you're at very good sites and with very cheap equipment," he says.

He says utilities would be more likely to support development of wind turbines that are cheap to purchase, erect and maintain -- machines very different than those being investigated by the country's public power company, ECNZ, according to Dawber.

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