Brendon Harre sees a future for hydrogen trains and the end of the carbon era as hydrogen powers heavy transport

Brendon Harre sees a future for hydrogen trains and the end of the carbon era as hydrogen powers heavy transport
ID 124448234 © Haiyin |

By Brendon Harre*

Steam trains signaled the start of the carbon era.

Will hydrogen trains signal its end?

The world’s first hydrogen train is now in service — Engadget

New Zealand’s goal of being zero carbon by 2050 is like ‘crossing a river by feeling the stones’. The goal is clear but each step is uncertain requiring exploration.

New Zealand can and will follow countries like Norway with its increased use of electric battery technology in the transport industry.

Hydrogen FCEV could specialise in the heavy and longer range end of the transport market

There is a very good case being made by Toyota that electric battery vehicles will specialise in the short range light vehicle end of the transport market while hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles will specialise in the longer range heavier vehicle end.

Advances in hydrogen electric fuel cell technology and renewable hydrogen production gives New Zealand another opportunity to step towards its zero carbon goal.

This opportunity is particularly relevant to the South Island of New Zealand due to the longer distance journeys being made in that part of the country. The South Island has four rail options;

  1. Electrify the 1150 km South Island rail network and run electrical multi-unit (EMU) trains -this has the highest capital costs due to the multi $billion cost to electrify the railway lines. The advantage is it has the lowest ongoing operating costs wrt energy use. Auckland and Wellington commuter rail services have used this option. Large parts of the North Island main trunk line are electrified but it is a struggle to justify maintaining and expanding this electrified line. For the South Island, which has no electrification, the capital costs -likely to be more than $3 billion for full electrification, means this option is not viable. Potentially the 50 km of Greater Christchurch track between Rolleston and Rangiora could be electrified -this limited electrification option would cost about $150m based on the cost to extend electrification in Auckland.
  2. Experiment with electric battery trains - like Japan and the UK. This option has lower capital costs due to not needing to electrify the railway lines and the next lowest operating costs wrt energy use. Electric battery trains have a range of about 150 km so are potentially viable for suburban passenger services. Unfortunately, electric battery trains do not have the range to replace the longer distance South Island Coastal Pacific or TranzAlpine passenger train services. Electric battery trains also have long charging times, so expensive trains with high capital costs would have reduced operating times, which is not an efficient use of scarce capital. Electric battery trains can though be simply charged by hooking them up to the power grid -no new energy distribution infrastructure is required.
  3. Experiment with hydrogen trains -like Germany. Hydrogen trains have lower capital costs but at the expense of higher operating costs wrt energy use. Hydrogen trains have a range of about 1000 km so can provide both suburban and regional South Island services. Refueling times are short (15min), which is similar to diesel trains. Hydrogen trains will require its own hydrogen production, distribution and storage facilities. On fixed rail routes this is not a too onerous constraint -the South Island rail network would only need 4 or 5 onsite production and dispensing facilities at strategic locations to provide full network coverage.
  4. Continue with diesel trains. This option has the lowest capital and the highest operating costs. Diesel trains are slow, noisy and polluting. From a tourist perspective they do not contribute to the countries clean green image. Diesel has an established fuel supply infrastructure network. All the political parties in the coalition government campaigned on introducing suburban diesel commuter rail services to Christchurch. Following the Kaikoura earthquakes the diesel train Coastal Pacific service was reinstated with an upgraded service.

KiwiRail has received $40 million of Crown funding to increase patronage on the Coastal Pacific passenger service. The funds will be used to operate the Picton to Christchurch service year-round, add an additional 63-seat carriage for peak seasonal traffic, and add a new premium luxury carriage.

The business cases of the three renewable energy South Island train options can easily be compared. The assessment essentially hinging on whether the capital and ongoing maintenance costs of electrifying the rail network is greater than the capital and maintenance costs of building more electrical generation and storage capacity to make up for the difference in energy use between each renewable train option.

Hypothetically a hydrogen train company could replace the South Island diesel train fleet with hydrogen trains, hydrogen production facilities and wind turbines to generate the power to make the hydrogen. Given enough generating capacity, which New Zealand has in the form of many consented but not built wind farms, hydrogen trains could be completely energy self-sufficient. This system would need backup storage capacity for when the wind is not blowing. This could either be hydrogen storage itself or something like a local pumped hydro-electric scheme. It is likely this whole system could be achieved for the South Island at a lower cost than the $3bn-plus cost to electrify the tracks option.

Note: 5c/kWh is the equivalent to $50/MWh

Generating renewable hydrogen by electrolysis of water is becoming competitive with the natural gas steam methane reforming production method and is the direction where the industry is headed.

According to the Wide Spread Adaption of Competitive Hydrogen Solution -Nel Hydrogen document if electricity prices can be sourced for US$60 (NZ$90) per MWh for onsite production plus dispensing facilities then renewable hydrogen can achieve fossil fuel parity.

Electricity spot prices in New Zealand

For a hydrogen train company or another company wanting to generate renewable hydrogen using the electricity grid as the primary energy source, electricity price hedging or back-up storage capacity is likely to be the biggest cost issue. This is due to high and volatile electricity spot prices in New Zealand’s electricity market. Price volatility has corresponded to low South Island lake storage. Hydrogen can be stored but I doubt it is possible to store a whole season’s worth of hydrogen in New Zealand.

New Zealand Inc could overcome the high ‘dry year’ electricity spot price issue by investing nationally in the most efficient pumped hydro scheme(s) that provides seasonal storage capacity for the entire electricity grid. Consideration should be given to the benefits of ‘dry year’ security of electricity supply from Associate Prof Earl Bardsley’s Onslow pumped hydro proposal. Which alongside other benefits would assist New Zealand to grow its renewable energy economy.

Earl Bardsley describes how legislation could ensure Contact and Meridian power companies build the proposed pumped hydro scheme (at a cost of about $1billion) by mandating lake level limits for their South Island hydro lakes. This legislation would in effect stop the power companies generating when lake level storage is low and prices are high. The power companies would respond by building extra storage capacity so they could sell during periods of high demand and low supply. This would be a ‘stick’ -if it wasn’t the power companies would already have built the pumped hydro scheme, as the Onslow pumped hydro proposal was first mooted in 2005. ‘Carrots’ could be assistance with debt funding costs (the government could pay some or all of the interest costs) and assistance getting resource consents. This approach would unlock a lot of investment from relatively little government expenditure. Not just directly in building the pumped hydro scheme but indirectly through security of electricity supply leading to more investment in renewable energy production and zero carbon transport modes.

New Zealand’s 2035 goal of 100% zero carbon electricity generation is possible by building more renewable electricity generation and using pumped hydro instead of coal or natural gas as the seasonal energy back-up.

The even bigger prize though is replacing CO2 emitting transport modes with CO2 neutral modes according to University of Canterbury researcher -Tom McKinlay.

If a hydrogen train company or other hydrogen or electric battery transport mode companies had certainty about electricity prices then they are more likely to invest in renewable energy and carbon neutral transport schemes.

Unfortunately this opportunity for New Zealand Inc is being messed up by party politics. National Party Taranaki MP -Jonathan Young, in particular, playing fast and loose with the facts in media statements about making hydrogen from Taranaki’s natural gas. Claiming a proposed scheme “is built around the world’s highest-efficiency hydrogen production process coupled with a cutting-edge natural gas power generation system that includes inherent 100 per cent carbon capture”, when in fact this technology has yet to be proven effective internationally. In the meantime any hydrogen produced from natural gas will be CO2 emitting like other fossil fuels. The standard steam methane reforming production method emits 9 to 12 tones of CO2 for every ton of hydrogen produced. Even if carbon capture and storage is successful, the infrastructure required to store and distribute large quantities of hydrogen coming from Taranaki’s distant and isolated natural gas fields is another untested technology factor.

Climate change is going to one of the biggest political issues of 2019 according to many political pundits. Experienced pundit -Linda Clark saying.

Climate change -the recent COP24 conference in Poland underscored that it’s no longer enough to keep talking about reducing emissions. We need to change how we act. That’s a challenge for any government. National will make it very hard for the government to move (note how quickly they spooked the PM over prospective fuel taxes). Finding the politically saleable way forward is going to be a real test of the coalition’s skill and persuasion. This issue needs a bipartisan approach -but there won’t be one.

I am an optimistic fan of social democracy. Climate change will be a test of whether democratic countries can, as former Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping said, ‘cross the river by feeling the stones’. I will be profoundly disappointed if western democratic countries like New Zealand cannot negotiate the uncertainty and exploration challenges of climate change.

New Zealand businesses want to be part of the zero carbon technological era. The New Zealand Hydrogen Association was formed in September 2018 by private sector companies with seed funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The founding members include Fulton Hogan, HW Richardson Group, Hyundai, Siemens (NZ), Green Cabs, Real Journeys, and Contact Energy. Toyota joined in November.

Richard Lauder, CE of Real Journeys, one of the founders of the Association, says his company is looking forward to exploring the possibility of reducing carbon emissions by using renewable hydrogen for some of New Zealand’s most iconic tourism offerings.

“Our specially designed fleet of bullet coaches travel 1.3 million kilometres each year between Queenstown and Milford Sound and the prospect of low emission hydrogen fuel cell coaches running this route would put Real Journeys at the forefront of tourism globally,” says Richard Lauder.


  1. For the government to negotiate with Meridian and Contact Energy for the building of the Onslow Pumped Hydro scheme.
  2. For the government to fund the trial of a hydrogen train on the Coastal Pacific route.
  3. For the Low-Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, that has been supporting the increase in electric battery vehicles in New Zealand, to be expanded to include hydrogen vehicles and different transport modes -rail, maritime or aviation as well as roads. The fund provides up to $7 million per year to co-fund up to 50% of project costs with private and public sector partners in areas where commercial returns aren’t yet strong enough to justify full private investment.

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There are ammonia conversion possibilities for diesel vehicles also. Ammonia can be produced from the atmosphere which is predominantly nitrogen using an electrical process (Tiwai making our fuel?). The emissions from ammonia/diesel engines are hydrocarbons, CO, CO2, NOx and O2. Given last-mile delivery relies on light trucks, and probably always will, I think this could complement any new hydrogen rail/road network well.

yeah, simplistically the abundance of nitrogen on one hand and water on the other in our elements must be of some huge attraction for combustion power still. Tend to forget that the internal combustion engine in its infancy had very little actual users globally. Then came WW1 & Henry Ford & aviation too, well demand got strapped to a rocket but technologies and infrastructure was able to keep pace. But with the massive travel and transport industries these days innovation and introduction of alternative powered engines can only be achieved very slowly if you put it in terms of a percentage of total usage.

Hadn't considered that. Isn't NOx seriously bad news though?

We're better off just changing the hydrogen into Methane (CH4) with carbon sequestered from the air in the Sabatier process or something like that. It's the same as natural gas.

Thanks David for publishing this article so quickly. Especially given is skeleton staffed over the holiday period.

I could have written more about other heavy hydrogen vehicles like hydrogen trucks but in order to keep the article a reasonable length I have left that for the reader to investigate.

Here is a link showing how heavily Toyota have invested in hydrogen trucks.

Given the interest in the comments below about using pumped hydro as a seasonal energy store to replace coal and gas I have updated my article with some additional information describing what a great opportunity NZ has to do this.

If it were just up to the potential, we wouldn't even need pumped hydro, we could just increase the storage, because NZ has an abundance of water. The issue is around land use, and ironically those most opposed damming valleys are the same ones who want more renewables.

Unless there is widespread RMA reform the Onslow-ManorBurn Depression pumped-hydro scheme is DOA.

The proposals for windmills in the area were soundly rejected after consideration of submissions by a coalition including the usual suspects (there'll be Snails.....) plus such luminaries as Brian Turner and Grahame Sydney - the latter two on purely aesthetic grounds. I have little doubt that a proposal involving large earth dams and an operating lake-level range of 80 metres, will meet the same fate, all else being equal.

The energy storage capacities indicated in Figure 2 are achieved at the expense of a large maximum water level range. The Onslow Reservoir at 800 metres was assumed to have an operating range of 80 metres, which would result in the two basins collectively having a between-level land surface exposure
of approximately 60 km2. This is a significant environmental impact, but complete 60 km2 exposure would be infrequent.

(my bolding)

It's roughly equivalent to the scale of the Tekapo A and B canals, which simply could not be built now. Trade-offs, trade-offs. Least ugly choice.....

Palmer and Upston should be sued for false advertising because the Resource Management Act does not manage resources. It makes none of those tricky tradeoffs. Look at the RMA failures. The massive nitrogen pollution of the Canterbury's waterways and aquifers because of RMA unregulated dairy conversions. Water bottling of remaining good aquifers not being in publicly notifiable. The RMA failing to provide affordable new housing for the next generation.

That's a very simplistic view of the RMA - although that said, I'm not a fan because it is not delivering good decisions for the environment - be it the urban or the rural or the natural environment. But a great deal of what might be seen as bad decisions for the environment arise specifically because "tricky tradeoffs" have been made - not exclusively, but in many cases as well-documented "environmental offsets".

But perhaps one of the largest failures to my mind is the lack of enforcement, in particular of conditions placed on resource consents. Many a development (i.e., subdivision, marina, water take, water discharge, farming etc.) consent would have been shut down in the very early stages of its granting/development had all of the conditions of consent been enforced and adhered to.

And in many cases the judiciary can be blamed for placing conditions on consents that they know/knew full well could not be fulfilled, and were essentially, totally "bogus". Perhaps they thought this would deter the applicants from going ahead with the development in the first place, but then the applicants always relied on the council's failure to monitor and enforce those conditions.

So the legislation itself wasn't (initially) all that bad from a conceptual perspective - it really is the case law and the application of the Act that has made it inefficient and ineffective to my mind.

From a macro perspective over the year - if we electrify our transport fleet we need to add an equivalent amount of generation.

With transport a near 365 base load - we need to add an equivalent 365 generation capability which translates to base load.

Pumped storage is a net energy consumer over the year - It does not add to our energy generation.

The simplest cheapest pumped storage would be to raise Manapouri ( very high head - large volume already ) and we know how that will play with the populace.

As the rejection of new hydro on the Grey shows there will be no more hydro built in NZ. So out goes pumped storage which is not an energy source anyway. This leaves wind with no associated storage of scale.

New base load therefore will have to come from geothermal or a small Gen V nuke underway and in development.

The Molten Salt breeder reactors on Thorium offer a lot of promise and China will have these running in less than 5 years - given they ran in the 1960's - no plutonium so out they went.

Batteries on the scale required will be uneconomic into the foreseeable future. SA's much vaunted 100 mW battery can only deliver that for just over an hour. Not what we are going to be looking for !

So with all the constraints of today - new smaller base load Gen V nuke's and geothermal are the way to go for us.

Hydrogen simply an energy transport medium - an a very inefficient and economic one - It is NOT and energy source !

Do you think Jacinda Adern will say, "Climate change is my generations nuclear free moment so that is why my government is going to invest in nuclear power...." ???

Geothermal is great -we should do more of that. But how much more NZ can access is questionable.

Whereas NZ definitely hasn't tapped out its wind power and further down the line solar power resources. So why don't we use them with pumped hydro as the 'battery' for when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. Pumped hydro is over 80% efficient. Very little power is lost.

I might be a bit grumpy Kate. I am no RMA expert. But it does seem that we have the worst of both worlds with the RMA. Environments we want protected that are not and too many restrictions and red tape at other times...

You got in in one there - couldn't agree more.

Yeah it sucks that other people do things we don't like, and we don't get everything single thing our way. The system is clearly broken and needs to be replaced so everyone has to do what we say! Then we can have a true democracy.

One of the surprises to me in the renewal energy space has been offshore wind in the UK. It seems bigger is more efficient as there is a power law at work. So, new wind turbines are being put in the North Sea that are higher than the gherkin in London and cost far less per kw/Hr than the new nuclear plant the stupid incompetent buggers in office are getting the Chinese to build for them.

When I first heard of offshore wind I thought it was a daft idea, but it seems the vast technological knowledge in the North sea oil industry centred in Aberdeen, plus the refinement of the propeller blade design (they can still do aeronautical engineering it seems) has meant that costs just keep getting lower, and lower and lower. Really quite exciting.

I could waffle on about government stupidity (nuclear) versus the technological expertise of the private sector in the UK, but their problems are different to ours. Pity about the RMA, it seemed a good idea at the time but it seems to be simply a massive obstacle to change. Good or bad, all change is opposed.

Hard to compare wind and nuclear. Nuke has the massive advantage of being able to provide constant base load power, wind cannot (unless you add in some form of energy storage).

We have a wonderful big battery called the hydro lakes which can be turned on and off pretty much at will. Our problems are different, but the super efficient big turbines used offshore in the UK are world leading technology that we do not have as ours are now old and outdated technology.

Of course a bigger battery would be even better. We will need it to maximize the benefit from advances in wind and solar power.


Hydrogen is an appalling battery and is pretty much dead as a prospective transport fuel, just awaiting a few religious greens, ill-informed politicians doing pork-barrel politics, and past-use-by-date bureaucrats and their empires to wake up and smell the coffee.
<80% efficient splitting of water to hydrogen
~30% energy loss to liquefy for long term storage, or huge expensive tanks and 10-20% losses if compressing to 100's of bar.
<50-60% efficiency reconverting to mechanical power

Overall about mid 30% as a battery, it represents a hugely wasteful approach to storing renewable energy. There are only a couple of cases where it makes sense:
1/ Stranded cheap renewables with production costs <30% of wholesale grid prices - like wind turbines 100's of km from nearest grid connection - floating wind turbines in the southern ocean might be viable (but more probably not).
2/ Seasonal energy storage, cost of storing liquid hydrogen in huge amounts is cheap, if there would otherwise be a 3:1 price ratio between winter and summer. But installing more PV is cheaper as winter production is >30% of summer production. So it doesn't really work as annual storage (and scale of pumped storage makes that a non-starter for annual storage). Given far-future surplus of summer pv likely in order to meet winter demand there might be some small portion of nearly 'free' energy that could be put into storing liquid hydrogen over summer for use in winter. But that summer surplus would be better put into useful manufacturing or somesuch.
3/ Far off-grid high power use, agricultural machinery, earthmovers, ships, planes. Maybe, but possibly safer to synthesise hydrocarbon fuels.
4/ It is a fantastic fuel for aviation - allows supersonic concorde like planes to travel halfway around the world in 8 hours, but only if the planes are make huge to combat the low hydrogen density.

Anything that can make do with batteries will, because hydrogen with all its inefficiencies and dangers cannot compete even now, and will be even less attractive if batteries double in performance and halve in cost over next decade as many expect them to.

We shouldn't be wasting money on the dying hydrogen boondoggle - leave it to other bigger countries to waste money on development of this dead-end.

With a lot of these "enviro" things, you can do it if you have surplus money to throw at it.

Some big companies are making some big bets on hydrogen Foyle. Why should I believe you Foyle?


I've working (as a professional engineer in UK) for a 30000person+ multinational company as a thermodynamicist and design engineer/energy researcher, preparing reports on exactly this stuff. I have a lot of friends and a close relative still working in these areas. I worked on one hydrogen based alternative energy project for 2 years (until I eventually quit) that we (the technical experts) knew were doomed to failure from the outset.

So why did the boards spend their millions on these follies? They were pretty clear with us internally. Marketing, positive column inches generated to keep the religious (as opposed to pragmatic) environmentalists off their backs for the less green things they did in other areas. And they were able to subsidise the bulk of the cost of this virtue signalling waste using tax payer funds from EU and other blind, stupid or otherwise unaccountable funding sources. The Hoi Polloi, media and true believers all seem short of the education and technical capacity to understand the technical arguments or think that somehow feelings will win over physics and chemistry.

The future is battery electric. Not hydrogen.

So Foyle you are saying NZ should stick with diesel trains and trucks because you had a bad hydrogen experience in the UK?

There is no way electric battery trucks or trains are going to deliver long distance services in NZ. Elon Musk has form on over promising and under delivering. His electric semis are not even in production yet. Meanwhile real electric trucks coming to the market only have a range of a couple hundred miles.

I might believe your points more if you engaged with the business case argument. For instance you say NZ could electrify its tracks. Well for the South Island that is well over $3bn. That is a lot of capital that could be spent on wind turbines and hydrogen production. Why shouldn't NZ use some of its consented but not built wind farms to make hydrogen? Especially with trains where 4 or 5 large and efficient onsite production and dispensing hydrogen plants could cater for the whole network.

I get it, electric trucks wont work, so obviously hydrogen will work! Couldn't have said it better myself.

Hydrogen trains and trucks exist in the real world. You can go to Germany (for the trains) and the US (for the trucks) to see them. What is wrong with NZ trialling them here to see if they work?

It's great, I think we should trial them and see how they go, we know diesel works, but we already have that. We also have electric trains and they work, what we need is hydrogen trains to see if they can keep up.

Good reply Foyle

Really? Foyle is clearly a massive gas and coal fan and all his comments/analysis feed that viewpoint.

Or he's simply being realistic, and saying hydrogen is a fools errand. And he's right. Pumped hydro will (might) make sense when we have excess generation.. which we don't. When half the houses in the north island have solar on the roof then we will have excess generation (on fine days).

Pumped hydro makes sense now. It would lower power prices for everyone in dry years. It would allow NZ to build wind power (it has a large number of consented but not built wind farms) to replace coal and gas. Wind power is lower cost than coal or gas -it just needs a backup energy supply for when the wind doesn't blow. Pumped hydro provides that back up.

Going forward as solar panels come down in price. Pumped hydro can provide backup power for that power generation source too.

Pumped hydro doesn't make sense now.. we don't have excess generation to pump water uphill. No point running down South island lakes to pump water uphill somewhere else.

Solar or wind generation will not be built if there is no way to store the generation for when people want to use it.

There already is.. its called throttling back the hydro dams and leaving the water behind the dams. Or not firing up the thermal plants.

Yes that works until dry years when the lakes storage capacity is depleted. Then a reduced amount of generation is allocated by higher electricity prices.

Eh? you got that completely bass-ackwards. Its only in a wet year IF the lakes get to maximum capacity that you can't store more water and have to spill it.

In dry years there is no surplus energy. There is in fact a shortage of energy. That is why electricity prices hike.

Sure, but what has this got to do with the fact we don't need pumped storage, we already have the situation where we can just throttle down the existing hydro and keep the water behind the dams? Its 100% efficient and achieves the same thing as pumped hydro, it results in more water behind hydrodams to generate power when we need it.

When we get to the point we have full hydrodams and are spilling water then we need to look at expanding storage capacity. Until then we need to look at expanding renewable generation, and being more efficient in how we use electricity.

No, No, No

Have a look a look at the graphs in my main paper. When the hydro lakes level go down electricity prices go up.

If NZ had more storage capacity in its hydro lakes i.e. if it built pumped hydro lakes then it wouldn't experience electricity price hikes due to low lake levels in dry years.

Yes, prices go up in dry years, i'm not disputing that. Building pumped hydro wont change that.. you need more generation or increased catchment to solve that problem.

Yes we have more power generation (and less demand) in summer and wet years. We just need to find a way to store the power. If there is demand for more power we can easily build more wind power farms. But that power source needs to be stored. Pumped hydro means that wind power instead of being consumed at the time it is generated can be saved for later use with over 80% efficiency.

FFS, go look at this page


Its the middle of summer right now, a lot of industry is on holiday , and even as we speak 60% of our power generation is coming hydro, most of which can be throttled down in minutes, if there was renewable generation to pick up the load, but instead we have hydro and gas burning thermal running to meet demand.


That's because effectively we have just had a 'dry' year. Gas generation was down, prices spiked. Ring a bell???? If we had stored some power from earlier periods we would not be in this problem.

FFS. and that is exactly why if there was abundant renewable generation available now they would throttle back the hydro generation and start building lake levels.. but there is not enough renewable generation.

There is not enough renewable generation to meet current low season demand, let alone to keep the lights on AND pump water up a sodding hill.

The lack of renewables is a solveable problem. All we need is incentives. Maybe part of the problem is the feed in rates are so low. Encourage people to build more solar and build some more pump hydro/batteries whatever and bobs your uncle.

That’s why we need more residential solar!

For example brewer Anheuser-Busch has placed an order for 800 Hydrogen-Electric Powered Semi-Trucks with Nikola Motor Company

They are a booze company and need a feel good initiative to ward off criticism.
Seriously, we will be using diesels in for the next two decades for long haul, no need for mad hydrogen initiatives.
Let another country make the mistakes.

If you really have to go "eco" you can make biodeisel, but that of course has its own major problems.

Plants are splitting water molecules pretty cheaply these days, you can then convert it to syngas without much stress but it doesn't have the energy density of diesel. I'm looking into hopium as a renewable energy to power everything.

Hydrogen trains are in a different market to electric battery trains. Hydrogen can do long distances and heavy loads. Electric batteries can't. So Foyle what you are essentially saying by rejecting hydrogen is NZ should stick with the status quo of CO2 emitting diesel for long distance work?

Trains are mostly uneconomic - but if you want to use them then electrify and use pantographs. The future is autonomous battery electric trucking (Tesla Semi and others) with it's better point-to-point operations eliminating wasteful double handling.

Electric trucks have limited range and cargo capacity. They are viable for 'last mile' delivery but not long distance freight. So Foyle -back in the real world of NZ -what will the South Island of NZ use to make long distance and/or heavy load trips? It seems you keep advocating for fossil fuels? Is that your true agenda?

Biodiesel makes more sense than hydrogen.

I would bet that if Biodiesel was genuinely competitive with the fossil fuel industry that Pragmatist would start criticising it. He clearly has a problem with change... He only mentions biodiesel to distract attention on genuine recommendations for change.

These being;
1. Build the Onslow pumped hydro scheme
2. Trial hydrogen trains (two) on the Coastal Pacific route
3. Expand the Low Emission Contestable Fund to include hydrogen vehicles

I think Brendon can't handle having his pet ideas shot to pieces by engineers and others with sound logical arguments and is having a tanty. See, I can throw slurs too.

All for change that makes sense, but your proposals don't make sense.

I do not think my recommendations have been exposed as wrong.

Exposing the commentors who are parroting Whaleoil, right wing politicians and the gas industry 'talking points' is not a 'tanty'.

And resorting to namecalling when you pet theories are exposed as unworkable shows you still haven't grown up.

A bit pot calling the kettle black Chris? I showed evidence of my claims about commentators. What's your evidence that I am having a 'tanty' or that I haven't 'grown up'?

You were the one that wrote "So Foyle are you Whaleoils hydro engineer? Spreading false facts to promote the gas industry?" with no links or evidence to back up your accusation.

Really? Foyle was using the same wording and argument as Whaleoil and I am the one spreading false facts.

The quote wording referenced actually comes directly from Hansard
and was also reported in Energy News as well as other trade papers. There is NO evidence that you show that he even knows about Whaleoil. He is, after all, just an engineer working in the UK working in energy research.
So you are putting your own conspiracy theories together without any evidence to belittle people, like rubbishing Dr Susan Krumdieck. With her, it was her post-quake housing comments without explaining its relevance to hydrogen research which she is a published researcher on. Speaking of being particularly impractical, most people would put you in the same category - pot calling the kettle black stuff. Now, what is your expertise in the energy sector?

And if you bothered to do even basic research, you would see that Foyle has been a regular commenter on energy matters on this website for some years, so he would be up with the Ministerial faux pas.
Now are you going to apologise for your slander, which is a lot worse that spelling someone's name wrong?

Sorry - it is libel, not slander, as you wrote the words.

Whaleoil wrote

"And while on the area required for storage, I am reliably informed that if the Ministers wanted to store 6TWh in a dam with a 102m drop to the turbine, and if the dam were 100m deep, its area would be 216 square km, a bit larger than Lake Wanaka. (My hydro engineer apologises for this slip of the powers of ten in his midnight calculations.)"

Foyle wrote

"For 6TWh pumped storage you need 20000km² of lake dropping through a turbine 100m lower with 1m of net change in height. But less area if you have greater lake height change. Eg Taupo at 600km² would need to rise and fall by 30m to give sufficient summer winter storage. Whakatipu at 290km² would need to rise and fall by 60m etc"

Spot the similarities?

Also spot the deliberate mis information. Not informing the public of how small the lake would need to be if the drop was significantly higher -like 600 to 700m.

You really are a conspiracy theorist, aren't you. He used different lakes, different5 numbers and different word order, but they are the same to you. Have you got a tinfoil hat as well?
It is only 5th form physics to work out the amount of water needed. And if you actually knew the industry, you would know that all the lakes are rated in CMDs which is the numbers quoted but in a different format. But then we have already established that you know nothing about energy.

Same BS framing that gives misinformation on how pumped hydro would work. Much like you have done this entire post. At every step you have tried to spread false info. Why is that Chris? Is it because you have an interest in the gas industry? That seems to be why you dislike the new energy minister. You guys are desperate for the status quo to continue. Do you want to reverse the gas and oil exploration ban? Do you want to ignore NZs commitments to become carbon zero? Do you want NZ to keep burning fossil fuels? Come on Chris answer the question. You know you want the truth to come out.

What I would like Brendon, is for you to actually know what you are writing about. So far, we have established that you do not. And what info has been false - other than spelling the hydrologist's name wrong?
Your posts are at the level of a teenage girl's Facebook likes.

More insults Chris? You know what they say about people in arguments who resort to insults.

Sad to see several intelligent, concerned and well informed contributors have an argument that becomes rather personal. Most of the public is unconcerned so we are missing an opportunity.
The trouble is the technology keeps changing; the last time I read about hydrogen as a fuel to replace petroleum there were scientific issues with the cost of producing the hydrogen (generalisation, why burn coal to generate electricity to split water into its constituent atoms?) and technical problems with storing hydrogen (safety and volume). OK I get the idea that hydro can generate electricity and the debate as to how much hydro NZ can support - some interesting comments in this blog. Has the technology moved ahead significantly since I last read about it?

No it hasn't moved forward. All those issues are still there.

Best case I think is using surplus solar and wind to make hydrogen so effectively using it as a battery. Doesn’t really make sense since batteries are way more efficient. Only use case is the train/super heavy vehicle scenario where you can maybe afford to build in the infrastructure because as the author says alternatives aren’t competitive.

Like everything else you write, your definition of insults is at variance with the evidence. You liked an uncosted submission because it agreed with your prejudices. You do not understand either the issues or the industry. You have no idea of the value of the project. You did ad hom attacks on Foyle who had the temerity to point out the problems with it.
So yes, that is acting like a teenage girl on Facebook.

And I am still waiting for the false facts.,But like the rest of your unsubstantiated statements, that is beyond you.

See below

I find it interesting that ppl such as yourself that know nothing about engineering are so "positive" on technology and engineering they do not understand.

Hydrogen lacks the energy density ie the carbon atom is missing. It is also a conversion process and not an energy generating process. It will also require expensive conversion plant dotted all over the place to refuel.
The thing about trains they are ideal for electrification and direct drive is pretty much the most effective, safest and efficient method to drive them.

Elon musk would beg to differ. He is talking over 800KMs range.

1st generation Tesla semi has 800km range. That is a day's driving. Recharge in < 1 hour and repeat... Or more ideally use battery swapping (the cheaper better solution to range issues of battery electric vehicles, and to utilise cheap pv energy). Trucking is an ideal platform for battery swapping as reduces axle weight and gives full recharge in minutes and space/integration isn't a problem.

There are at least 10 big manufacturers now developing electric trucks. The battle is essentially over. Battery Electric is going to win over fossil fuels on economics (with hydrogen trailing far behind).

And batteries are going to get a lot lighter and cheaper yet.

I hope not, its simple, electrify the lines.

So you want $3bn+ in your taxes allocated to electrifying the South Island's rail network?

Yes, the main line at least.

The problem is we have a window of cheap fossil energy that is rapidly closing so we have to use that energy to build in systems and services that use electricity. Ergo the main line is ultra critical for holding the economy and maybe even the country together IMHO. Now if you can point at a better way, I'll swing there but right now I see no alternative.

One of the best sources of Hydrogen looks to be from refineries. Shell are looking to do this in Germany and if you look at news from NZ Refining they are also looking into this area.

At which point you realise its sourced from fossil fuels, so how exactly is it a change for the better from diesel?

..bcause - 'hydrogen....'

Look how that worked out for the Hindenburg.


Uh no, refineries need feedstock which is fossil fuel and stripping out the carbon to give a less dense more difficult to contain energy fuel makes no sense what so ever for most applications.


Foyle is right. Susan.Krumdieck did a series of interesting posts on Energy Watch about how bad hydrogen is. And she did post-doctoral research in it as well as holding patents on hydrogen fuel cells.
Everyone is showing interest because there is free money being thrown at it by the government. They only came up with the idea to get them out of the embarrassment behind their stupid decision to stop O&G exploration. Currently about 20% of NZ's power comes from thermal. Where would the power to generate the hydrogen come from? And how would it be stored? Hydrogen has an appalling energy density, even liquified.
With regards the Manorburn depression, that is a joke. It was written by someone with no knowledge of the electricity system (the author came from the earth sciences department). The quoted cost estimates are about 1% of what the actual cost would be. You need all the transmission system upgraded as well. You also need a lot of power to pump the water up . Where is that power going to come from? Pumped storage are only used overseas where there is baseload nukes to absorb the power during the night period that can provide "free" power.
Norway has electric cars because they have massive subsidies to buy them. They also get very cheap power because they get paid to take Germany/ Denmark's surplus wind generated power.

Chris pretty much every statement of yours is wrong. The Onslow pumped hydro scheme was proposed by a Earl Bardsley a hydrologist who has worked for Meridian. He has a distinguished academic career.

NZ has decades and decades of hydro experience. The costs are well known. This project as Waymad said would be similar to previous projects we have built.

No extra transmission capability would be needed. Basically when hydro lakes are full and spilling water some of that wasted power is used to pump water up to the high Onslow/Mannorburn lake. Also if the wind is blowing and or sun shining but there is no electricity demand, wind and solar power can be used to pump water. Then when hydro lakes are low, power can be generated from Lake Onslow.

Norway has many such high storage lakes. So it can provide energy backul for lowland windpower in Denmark and Germany.

Wind and solar power could ramp up to provide
20% of electricity generation in NZ. We just need back up generation capacity. Which is where pumped hydro comes in...

Susan Krumdieck is a particularly impractical person. Her post quake housing suggestions for Christchurch were very ludicrous.

When are hydro lakes full and spilling water? They aren't. The run of the river ones like Clyde are sometimes under flood flow with their generators going flat out. Then they spill. So there is NO surplus power.
Susan might be impractical on earthquakes - some academics good and some bad in your eyes? but she has the qualifications and research to back up her statements on hydrogen which also match Foley.

Chris it is a well known problem with renewable energy that rain, wind and sun used to generate electricity is not always timed with when people need the power. So that means the electricity industry has to store power. NZ could store power in the form of gas and coal -which is what we do currently. Or we could store it in water behind hydro dams. Pumped hydro has a 'round trip' efficiency of over 80% when used as a 'battery' which is very efficient.

Pumped hydro would be a better more greener alternative than coal or gas -consistent with our international climate change commitments. Or we could store the energy using some other method -like hydrogen but that is likely to be much less efficient 'as a battery'.

It seems to me Chris you and Foyle are arguing for NZ to remain using gas and coal as the countries back-up 'battery'?

Here is some information about Pumped hydroelectric storage from the US.

NZ has a fantastic hydro resources -including pumped hydro. Any other country in the world would be immediately be building Lake Onslow/Manorburn. It is a no brainer.

Can we just use normal batteries? 99% efficiency plus you don't have to kill any snails or eels. You could probably electrify tracks cheaper than any of the other alternatives and yes I work for big battery corporations.

Lithium batteries lack the capacity to provide long term seasonal energy storage. I believe they have very good engineering characteristics for short term storage needs. They can discharge power very quickly for instance.

That is like saying my pool lacks the capacity for pumped hydro storage.

Batteries aren't 99% efficient. Round trip is usually less than 90%. And they have a finite life/ # of duty cycles, after which they have to be replaced.

Unlike hydrogen trains, which one assumes run for ever, at 110% efficiency.

Your statement "No extra transmission capability would be needed. " is wrong, confirming that you know nothing about the subject. Read the Transpower reports where they can't even get existing generation North at times.They have also costed the fix for a 500MW solution.
For the scheme to work as proposed by Dr Bardsley (where the pumped storage can replace thermal generation, there would need to be an extra 1000MW of transmission capacity from Teviot to Whakamaru. No ifs, no buts, no fudges. It is the full transmission upgrade or the scheme is useless.

Why would a new transmission line from Teviot near Roxborough to Whakamaru in the middle of the North Island be needed?

The primary reason for electricity to go from the Onslow pumped hydro scheme to the North Island would be to replace missing generation from the southern hydro lakes (when they are low in dry years) -so Teviot would only need to be connected to the existing transmission lines from the Southern lakes.

Because all the thermal stations that the pumped storage and intermittent generation would replace (and load centres) are in the North Island.
For someone who throws around accusations of false facts, you are pretty loose with them yourself. Go back and read the productivity Commission submission. It is all about "This submission on the Draft Report (DR) is with respect to reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. CO2 is relevant because it is a long-lasting GHG and would be the most visible of our GHG reduction activities via a transition to electric vehicles (EVs).
Emphasis here is on the probable need for significant increase in energy storage capacity as a prerequisite to meaningful reduction in CO2 emissions, and how this might be achieved economically in New Zealand by incorporating pumped storage. " Ie replacing thermal generation with intermittent wind.
So he uses the words economically but has no information on costs - notice the disconnect?
And you can't just connect Teviot to the grid. It's 1300MW we are talking about. To quote Transpower "Transmission of generation from the lower South Island area to the Waitaki Valley is first limited by the capacity of the Livingstone–Naseby–Roxburgh circuit, and later by the thermal capacity of the Cromwell–Twizel sections of the Clyde–Cromwell–Twizel circuits."

Ok now we are getting somewhere. The Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme can perform two functions.
It can store water for the 1 'dry' year in how ever many normal hydro years. In this scenario in the dry year instead of power being sent down to the South Island to make up for the missing generation from low Southern lakes, power is generated from Lake Onslow. In this scenario no new transmission lines are needed.

The second scenario is that over time wind and solar power replaces North Island thermal capacity. Which as you say Chris would require transmission upgrades if the pumped hydro is Lake Onslow. This function though may be better provided by a North Island pumped hydro scheme -if there is one available.

The fact you are interested in the second scenario Chris indicates what I have be saying all along that you disagree with the proposals to replace fossil fuel electricity production with renewable energy. You disagree with the oil and gas ban, the carbon zero by 2050 plan and the 100% renewable electricity production by 2035 plan.

P.S Keep insulting me -because it doesn't help your side of this polemic debate.

There is no value in long term storage because it can't be used without all the rest of the grid upgrades. And there is NO surplus renewable energy so there is NOTHING to store.
Your polemics do not give you a pedestal to preach from without being seen as a hypocrite. If you want to be respected, then you have to show competence or knowledge. You haven't. If feel insulted, so be it.

Well that is just wrong and poorly argued Chris. For the dry year storage scenario the options to fill Lake Onslow are either to use surplus power when supply is high and demand is low. If that is inadequate then it possible to build some wind turbines to pump up the water.

Then it is a simple cost benefit economic assessment. Is the net present value of the capital works (including any pumping wind turbines) less than the NPV from not incurring dry year/ low lake levels/ high prices.

You still have no comprehension of the situation do you.
The owner of the pumped storage station needs to buy electricity off the grid. To get that generation, they need to burn gas or coal as they always have thermal units on the grid, so that is where the marginal operation comes from. The bid stacks are often very steep, so an extra 100MW load (as they would have to buy on the spot market) would invariably make the power expensive. So they need to sell the power back when the value is high enough to pay for itself AND the capital cost of the plant, plus the 15-20% losses. Now who would take on that losing bet? Remember the government took a bath over Whirinaki.

Or the government could operate it and write off the cost. Also see my other comments that you are better focusing on shifting demand/power within the day rather than over longer periods of time.

Sorry but that is not right. The security of supply entity that builds the pumped hydro scheme could also build wind power. It would take a long time to fill the lake -months to years. So why not use a low cost intermittent supplier like wind? Why on earth would the security of supply entity buy power from the most expensive thermal supplier. The whole purpose is to buy low and sell high.

Your original statement was about dry year reserve. Now you are talking about as a battery for wind. Up thread, you tried to lecture me on your expertise on the electricity market. Your later comments show you are a BS artist who has no clues and relies on bluster . With 500MW of thermal generation on the grid at all times, the marginal generator is always gas or coal. There is no significant power to buy low.

That is not true.

If you have hydro, wind/solar, and gas. There are plenty of scenarios where you keep the gas production constant and dip the hydro to either (A) let the lakes refill or (B) pump hydro.

This is the whole point about NZs advantage. With so much hydro we should be a slam dunk for a renewable/hydro combo.

I thought the whole point of renewables was to reduce fossil fuel usage and save the planet.. but you are saying shutdown the hydro before the gas?

I hope not. However I would say you shutdown hydro and make it your emergency reserve / peak loper only and let geo, Solar and wind take as much "base" load as possible. Now throw in some lake storage, yes.

The point of pumped hydro is to buy electricity when it is cheap from either existing generators -wind (6% of the market) or hydro or geothermal generator -this will be when supply is high and/or demand is low and as spot electricity price graphs showed -tends to follow the storage levels in the southern lakes. This electricity will be used to pump up water to the high basin storage lake. Or new generators could be contracted to supply this energy -a wind supplier might get a better price for this electricity than they would on the spot price market.

When prices are higher (at least 25% higher) then as the round trip efficiency is over 80% it is economic to sell back the power by releasing some water from the high basin storage lake to generate electricity.

Steven you mentioned nuclear energy sometimes needing to store energy. This is because it is difficult to turn off nuclear power so sometimes demand dips below nuclears minimum supply.

In NZ we have a slightly different set of problems (something that foreigners like yourself may not be aware of) -we have supply like wind -which is increasingly more efficient to build. But wind generated supply doesn't always correspond to high demand. The existing storage in our hydro lakes allows a certain amount of wind power because when wind is blowing and demand is low -then hydro lakes can stop generating and start filling -essentially the hydro lakes are a battery. The problem is our lakes (unlike Norways) have limited amounted of storage (so they fill up quickly) and even worse sometimes they run dry.

People who have lived in NZ for a long time have experienced 'dry years' where prices spike and electricity supply saving measures are needed.

Pumped hydro can solve -first the dry year problem and later the second problem that NZ has increasingly more efficient renewable energy options but difficulty getting this energy to the market because its supply doesn't always correspond to demand.

You know I’m supportive of the pumped hydro idea but I don’t think you need it to solve the dry year problem, you can solve that with more wind/solar and even gas. We get the dry year problem because at a certain point in the probability distribution we don’t have enough power. But boost the generation capacity - either more hydro or more something else and you’ll reduce the likelihood of a dry year dropping power below a ‘bad’ point.

This is why you are not a generation planner.

Wind and solar do not reliably fix the issue of opportunity cost of water, at all. You cannot easily ramp generation at the known demand peaks.
Storage is likely the most sustainable long term solution - this either comes in the form of hydro or some other form of battery. Tesla, etc.
Peaking gas is the other solution.
Essentially something that you can ramp reliably and fast.

Boosting hydro generation capacity is unrealistic. There will likely be no more large scale hydro projects in NZ due to both geological and greenie constraints.
Geothermal - there is a substantial amount of capacity, but nowhere near what you appear to believe.
Also, in what world is it economic to build such huge new generation assets for, essentially, peaking relief for 1 month per year? Remembering that for 11 months the effect of a cluster of new (southern) alpine hydro dams will force the local GIP prices down towards zero as the HVDC is also at capacity - a constraint Brendon, too has missed.

The point is - this stuff is complex. It may make you sound smart to discuss such things at a BBQ but not here.

So what exactly is your solution?

If you don’t have enough power for a certain time of year you either:

• build more generation
• build more storage
• accept ridiculous surge pricing

It doesn’t actually make a difference whether you build more generation or storage (assuming you have something to store). You should just build what is cheaper.

I’m all for building pumped hydro as greater storage but actually it may be cheaper to just build more generation.

Yes that will mean some wasted production some of the time but that is just tough luck for the people who own those assets. And it’s good luck for consumers who will get very low prices.

We need a new solution to solve an issue that isn't really a significant issue?
Please tell me why? I might be wrong, but I haven't heard of any rolling blackouts or similar.

Currently the capacity to spill is there and the peaking backup is also available.
This year we had three things that conspired to cause an issue; lower than usual rainfall/snowmelt, shutdowns on Taranaki gas assets, and Flick customers on spot pricing.

"accept ridiculous surge pricing" - who has to accept this?
The gentailers/retailers don't care about the spot price of electricity, given that probably 99% of capacity is covered by forwards. The only people who get burnt are those who buy power at the spot rate, which is essentially limited to those Flick customers.

Sure there is a cost associated for the retail customer and research at AU has highlighted the extent of this. However, in terms of absolute shortage in installed capacity we have a significant buffer.

Good comment Nymad. I hadn't expected the pumped hydro to get so much attention. I had not thought about the transmission line issue.

If North Island thermal plants end up being replaced with North Island renewables that has storage back up from South Island pumped hydro is not ideal because of the extra transmission lines needed. North Island pumped hydro would be better.

The Onslow pumped hydro scheme though would work well to provide back up for the occasional dry lake year problem with South Island hydro lakes.

Sort of.

If the hydro is at 70% you shut down the hydro and let the lake fill.

If the hydro is at 100% you shut down the gas.

Obviously the actual algorithm would be more complex and factor in seasonal averages and forecast data but you get the idea.

Hydro is a battery. A massive battery. In a renewable future it’s primary purpose is to enable solar and wind.

Gas is finite therefore its no good as a long term base load let alone its CC impact.

No Chris is spot on.

The pumped hydro scheme is in effect a short term storage mechanism, a massive battery in effect. To make it work effectively and in a cost worth way it needs to be filled and drained daily. So use excess power overnight and pump up water for use during the day. Classic case use is Nuclear generation, hint we dont have any nuclear power.

The Q comes back to were is this waste power? during the day solar and wind yes sure, but you have to account for transmission losses etc.

In terms of backup generation capacity, we already have it, existing hydro, we simply dont use it as first use.

All this resilience of course costs and no one want to pay.

Steven you think like NZ electricity system is like the UK's with nuclear power -it is not.

Also. Actually making hydrogen trains and trucks for commercial use seems to be evidence this is not about chasing after 'free' money.

Debacles are not uncommon in transportation and I believe the hydrogen economy is an example..
For Saturday night amusement you could read on Steam powered turbine locomotives.
Entirely logical but irrelevant.

In Australia pumped hydro academics are getting national recognition and awards. In NZ it is either silence or denigration. No wonder we have a productivity problem....

Australia is 30x NZ area, with relatively flat and stable land, it's an apples and oranges comparison.

Our entirely-out-of-her-depth history PhD turned energy minister Woods in parliament a few months back:
"We also know that technological change to store the roughly 6 terawatts of surplus energy we produce in summer that we can use in winter is coming not just through battery power but through things like molten salt, like hydrogen, and a range of other storage facilities."

Repeating buzzwords and hoping for miracles after setting policy based on feelings is not responsible governance. Hydrogen is horribly inefficient (not to mention vast conversion system costs), batteries and molten salt too expensive for anything beyond a day or two. Long term storage is basically not economically feasible.

For 6TWh pumped storage you need 20000km² of lake dropping through a turbine 100m lower with 1m of net change in height. But less area if you have greater lake height change. Eg Taupo at 600km² would need to rise and fall by 30m to give sufficient summer winter storage. Whakatipu at 290km² would need to rise and fall by 60m etc. Pumped storage for annual power storage in NZ is simply delusional - we could do it if there was no other option, (eg damming most of Canterbury and Otago high country to form a huge lake) but in our world Greens and economics prevent it.

Foyle you should be ashamed to call yourself an engineer with the bad advice you give.

I was curious about your Megan Wood quote "We also know that technological change to store the roughly 6 terawatts of surplus energy we produce in summer that we can use in winter is coming not just through battery power but through things like molten salt, like hydrogen, and a range of other storage facilities."

So I googled it. Strangely it took me to Whaleoil article -Titled -"There's a cuckoo in the Woods"

The theme of the article was belittling the Minister of Energy Megan Woods efforts to transition our energy industry away from gas and coal to zero carbon renewable options.

Some of paragraphs in the article were very similar to what you write above Foyle. Such as the following quote from Whaleoil.

"And while on the area required for storage, I am reliably informed that if the Ministers wanted to store 6TWh in a dam with a 102m drop to the turbine, and if the dam were 100m deep, its area would be 216 square km, a bit larger than Lake Wanaka. (My hydro engineer apologises for this slip of the powers of ten in his midnight calculations.)"

So Foyle are you Whaleoils hydro engineer? Spreading false facts to promote the gas industry?

Of course in Assoc Prof Earl Bardsley paper he details that for Lake Onslow/Manorburn the drop down to the turbine would be between 640 and 720m. So 6-7 times the energy is generated compared to Foyles scenario. Which means up 12 TWh of energy can be stored in Lake Onslow and Lake Manorburn. This means the pumped hydro scheme can provide 'dry' year security of energy supply for the whole of NZ.

You are now just being stupid Brendan
Ms Woods did make the statement about 6 terrawatts of surplus power
Q9 in Psarliament
There was a lot of comment at the time about her being out of her depth

What did Megan Woods say that indicated she was out of her depth? All she said that coal (Huntly) and gas (Taranaki) could be replaced over time (by 2050) by 6 TWh of power to provide winter (dry year) supply as new technology became available. Fortunately NZ has a good alternate source of energy storage capacity in the form of pumped hydro. The Onslow/Manorburn pumped hydro scheme alone could provide 12 TWh of storage capacity.

She did not say 6TWh. She said 6TW and repeated this several timers. She either does not understand the difference between power and energy, or she does not read her briefing notes? Which is it?

Chris a mis stated word is hardly evidence of incompetence. The reality is you think Megan Wood is incompetent because she implemented a ban on oil and gas exploration in NZ. That is your substantive complaint and that is why you so vehemently oppose coal and gas 'dry year' backup electricity generation role being replaced.

No Brendan, She repeated the same "mistake" at least three times and never did correct her mis-speak.

And will you correct and apolagise for your mistakes about Assoc Prof Earl Bardsley?

Yes I spelt Dr Bardsley's name wrong. But I acknowledge my mistake, unlike the Minister. I can't correct previous posts unlike the Minister who could have issued a correction when she realised she had made a mistake. Or hasn't she realised yet?

I learned the difference between energy and power as a 13 year old in (mandatory) science class. Ms Woods (of similar vintage) didn't.

Our Minister Of Energy (FFS)

My uni studies in Physics were most of a lifetime ago. So had to check the definition of energy & power. Of the many choices for an ambiguous word I found this most useful "" the time rate at which work is done or energy emitted or transferred "". However most dictionaries have 'power' as a synonym of 'energy'. Not much sense for an engineer but that is how the English language is used.

Did you bother reading the part in the Barnsley paper that said " There would be major civil engineering
involved in constructing any pumped storage scheme in the Onslow-Manorburn depression and an overview of the many aspects involved is beyond the scope of this paper."
And what blew out the cost of Clyde? - the civil works. There are major faults going through the lakes site. There will also be active slides with their toes being submerged. So he hasn't built any of that into his costings. There is also the Livingstone constraint that will cost about $1B to fix. And there are a couple of other spring washer effects down there with a comparable price tag.
And you want this pie in the sky dreamkland stuff to be taken seriously as energy policy?. You are as far in fairyland as the Minister.

A feasibility study would of course be the next step, with a more exact estimation of cost. That shouldn't be hard. NZ has considerable experience in building major hydro tunnels and hydro schemes in general. We built the Manapouri tunnel twice for instance.

And we haven't got that expertise. Most of the engineers who did the work are now pushing up daisies. There are very few people in the workforce who have built a real dam, even as a junior engineer. All the tunneling expertise came from overseas. That is why the Italians were at Tongariro and Meridian contracted out the 2nd tailrace at Manapouri.

Interesting that you have now read the paper Chris. Will you note that Associate Prof Earl Bardsley (note the spelling with a 'd' not 'n' as you wrote -I say that kindly because people make little mis statement mistakes all the time -it doesn't affect their substantive arguments) is an academic engineer with expertise in hydrology, working in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Waikato University, not an earth science academic as you first claimed.

You can't even get that right Brendan. The submission he presented to the Productivity Commission is just a rehash of the paper published in the 2005 Journal of Hydrology (his number 1 reference) which was when he was in Department of Earth Sciences.
Even now, he isn't an Engineer. His qualifications show that

Hadn't seen the article, a relative emailed me the Woods idiocy from Hansard - I don't know how it was drawn to their attention. The 6TWh calculation I did at the time and replied to them took me 2 minutes and a google of lake areas - it's not arcane or difficult most good year 13 physics students could do it in similar time if they cared.

You should look pretty hard at yourself if you think this line of attack is acceptable. You are no longer arguing facts - you are attempting to impugn and denigrate people who challenge your statements with data based arguments. Argue your case on it's technical merits, challenge other's wrong conclusions using data, but be willing to change your beliefs if the data doesn't fit your preconceptions. I do. That is how science and engineering and sensible policy formation advance.

Ok Foyle you want to argue with facts and technical merits?

Why did you say that 6 TWh of "Pumped storage for annual power storage in NZ is simply delusional - we could do it if there was no other option, (eg damming most of Canterbury and Otago high country to form a huge lake)" When my article had clearly referenced Prof Bardsley work on a pumped hydro scheme that only flooded the relatively small Manorburn and Onslow depression -which is not all of the Canterbury and Otago High Country -it probably isn't even 1% of the Central Otago. Yet the Onslow pumped hydro scheme can provide 12 TWh of energy storage -tripling NZ's hydro storage capacity and providing storage from one year to the next, so that NZ can cope with 'dry years'?

Being an engineer who believes in data based arguments -explain yourself. Did Assoc Prof Bardsley make a mistake? Does his scheme not store as much power? Would a bigger lake be required -one almost the size of the Canterbury and Otago high Country?

His 2005 paper is obsoleted by modern wind and solar generation even if it ever made any financial, economic or engineering sense and frankly I really doubt it.

That didn't answer the engineering question Steven. What if anything is wrong with the amount of power that can be stored and the size of the lake in Prof Bardsley paper? Are those facts obsolete? Did physics change between 2005 and now? Steven you are supporting your English engineering colleague who was peddling false hydro lake facts -why do you do that? Where is your scientific integrity?

I have a B.Eng also in the areas of energy engineering and Foyle seems spot on, and you are a nurse? So why do you think that as a nurse you have an ability to make a sound judgement on the best way forward in engineering?

It makes no sense I can see to pump and store for 6 months, that is plain economic nuts. Its a huge cost to store when you dont need to store. I mean the onslow storage potential paper is 14 years old and solar and wind have come a long way since 2005. Just build out solar and wind locally to where its needed, keep hydro as the reserve, pump a bit locally if that makes sense, incremental costs and you have the backup in existing hydro.

"The theme of the article was belittling the Minister of Energy Megan Woods" that is because she is utterly clueless pollie. I dont like Whaleoil in the slightest, he's a total assh*le IMHO but the reality is we have a huge energy problem in front of us and if that quote is correct it shows how clueless and/or frightened the Minister is.

Steven the only cost to store water in a lake for one month versus one year or longer is evaporation. If you have the geography to store enough water for a year or more -that is fantastic. Luckily NZ does.

Think about PDK's micro hydro scheme. Do you think if he had an affordable possibility to build a high level storage lake that could give him dry seasonal coverage he wouldn't do it?

Foyle (sorry I was dyslexic with your spelling earlier)
The reason why Australia is looking at pumped storage is the backbone of the grid is still the large coal plants. The other month I attended the big Generation Workshop.There was a lot of presentations and followup discussion about how they are having big problems with their generators because of the ramping forced on them by the non-dispatchables. Their availability has gone down and operating costs gone up. That is why Australian power prices is now one of the most expensive in the word. They would welcome pumped storage as it would enable them to stabilize the plants' output.

The same benefits would apply to NZ. Pumped hydro would stabilize NZ's energy spot prices. Which is what I wrote in my article.

No Brendan. It would not. There is no surplus thermal power (or any hydro power) to use to fill the lakes. If you can show the actual generation data to show the gaps, then you might have a point. I cannot see it on any of the generation data I have - which goes back 5 years in detail and back to the 70s in general terms. . Otherwise without the missing power, you are just repeating airhead talking points

New Zealand has 17 wind farms operating. These wind farms currently have a combined installed capacity of 690 megawatts. They supply around 6% of New Zealand’s annual electricity generation, which is about the same amount of electricity as 300,000 kiwi homes use in a year.

There is currently approximately 2,500 MW of wind generation consented but not built in New Zealand and developers are exploring sites throughout New Zealand for new wind farms.

Developers generally progress from holding a consent to build once they are satisfied that market conditions will provide a commercial return.

Building the proposed Onslow pumped hydro scheme would even out spot prices. Wind farms could get higher prices when the wind is blowing -making them more economic. Consumers would pay lower spot prices when the wind ( or sun or rain) is not in play because the pumped hydro scheme would provide the back up power.

Currently this backup generation is coal and gas, which is very expensive (see the electricity spot price graph) and it is polluting -it produces CO2.

And how much generation did those windfarms do in the week between Xmas and New Year? And why are the windfarms wanting to shut down at times because they are uneconomic to run. Those are public domain documents.
Asynchronous generation is useless on the grid. Lack of Inertia and poor low voltage ride through are just some of the faults. That is why SA shuts the farms down to keep GTs on.
And you don't understand the spot market at all. Very little power is sold on the spot market. Most has long term contracts. Baseload Hthe CCGTs or the Rankines and the power price drops to under $70MWh. That is also in the documents if you bothered looking.

I think I have a better grasp of economics and the implications of spot pricing than you do Chris.

I don't deal in economics, which is fairyland models. The old saw about line up all the economists in the world and you wouldn't reach a conclusion is still true. I am an engineer who has to deal with the real world stuff and making things work, at minimum cost.
As you understand spot pricing, do you know how much building a 1300MW pumped storage scheme would cost - as this is the centrepoint of your proposal?

Economists understand tradeoffs for the allocation of scarce resources, opportunity costs, competition theory, contract theory, game theory....

Engineers are great but can be a bit concrete in their thinking

That is why engineers build things that work and economists don't.

And I note you, like Dr Bardsley, haven't commented on how much the pumped storage system would cost. That is because the cost is so high that it would make electricity uneconomic.

Chris I like Bardsleys paper recommend that NZ builds the most efficient pumped hydro schemes that it can. That will require some costing investigation by people trained in that area. Other countries like Australia are doing that work. Maybe NZ should too? Or would ignorance be the best option?

Your ignorance in insisting on comparing apples with oranges is astounding. If you actually bothered to read the trade literature, you would know that pumped storage is to give you peaking capacity for baseloaded plant.
What you have latched onto is some uncosted harebrained scheme which confirms your prejudices. And simple fag packet maths shows it is uneconomic. You don't need costing investigations for silly ideas.

With a big enough reservoir there is no fundamental physical reason pumped storage couldn't be used for shifting excess off-peak renewable to the high demand winter season.

I mean you are going to be pushing **it uphill to get a storage lake that big past the Greens & Iwi, and then accountants/whoever has to foot the bill are going to have some huge questions about the ROI.

Oh, and that small factor of not actually having excess generation to pump the water uphill anyway.

My understanding is pumped hydro is incredibly efficient. It’s just a question of geography. We must have a site somewhere in the upper north island.

However, I do question it’s usefulness for long term storage ie between seasons. Surely storing water (energy) for extended periods of time would undermine the economics.

It seems obvious what we need to do (at least to me):
• incentivise residential solar such that it becomes a meaningful generation element and/or build more wind power.
• build a means of storing energy short term so we can address the duck curve - the peak in the mornings and evenings that non-solar generators might not be able to meet because the sun is down.
• if solar isn’t enough, just bite the bullet and build a bigger gas plant, perhaps with that new Allen cycle thingy.

Re the last point - the fact is gas is relatively clean. If we are using it to power electric cars it will still be way cleaner than petrol. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Re pumped hydro. Why are people ragging on this idea and the author? It’s done successfully in other countries. Dare I say New Zealand needs to grow up, pay attention to what works in other places, and ‘think big’ haha. Electric cars are coming and we are going to need a lot more power. Solar and wind plus storage is going to be the cheapest and most environmentally friendly option even if we have to flood a few more valleys for the storage part. So we should have a plan now and put in place some incentives.

Speaking of incentives I reckon $150 per KWH or generation capacity, a minimum feed in rate of 9c plus the govt offering a match up to 1c for anything over 9c (so govt kicks in max of 1c if retailer pays 10c instead of 9c). That would get installation going, create jobs, and reduce emissions.

My other idea is the government needs to kickstart another generator, perhaps by building some generation and then gifting it to a new commercial vehicle. The market is too concentrated to be competitive.

Sorry I should have said Allam Cycle.

For anyone interested in how the tech is progressing it seems the demonstration plant was a big success and they are moving to greater scale. We could build one or more of these puppies in Taranaki.

Regarding the recent gas shortages, we should have a backup plan to bring in gas via ship. Or we should have an act of god limit on spot prices.

"I think I have a better grasp of economics and the implications of spot pricing than you do Chris."

Yet there is not one mention of the BEN or HAY GIP and GXPs in this piece that focused on how pumped hydro storage in a completely different island to the main concentration of electricity demand will solve all our issues.

Chris you wanted to know what your fake facts are. Well here is a list of them just from your first post.

1. "With regards the Manorburn depression, that is a joke. It was written by someone with no knowledge of the electricity system (the author came from the earth sciences department)." -Chris you knew who the author was because you have quoted his Productivity Submission report. Yet you wrote the Assoc Prof Earl Bardsley "has no knowledge of the electricity system". Bardsley's distinctions include being Meridian Energy Senior Research Fellow, from 2000 to 2005

2. "The quoted estimates are about 1% of what the actual cost would be." I quoted $1billion so you are saying $100billion. My statement was a guess but yours is just ridiculous.

3. "You need all the transmission upgrades as well". Not necessarily if the scheme is built for dry year storage protection (one of the two possible functions which Bardsley discussed) and the generators to fill it are located nearby (in the lower South Island) then new transmission lines are not need. Later maybe if more stable spot prices mean North Island thermal plants are replaced by more competitive renewable options. But that isn't guaranteed -it depends on the market.

4. "Norway gets paid to take Germany/Denmark's surplus wind generated power." Another BS statement. Norway imports wind power when prices are low and exports hydro power when prices are high. Norway's hydro storage is called a green battery and the country is putting considerable effort into making it more productive (I wish NZ was more open to productive ideas).

Chris I knew from the start that you would play fast and loose with the facts and basically use any argument that sounds convincing -even if it isn't true. Because you are an energy insider with your feet clearly in the pro oil and gas camp. You gave it away with the quote ".... their stupid decision to stop O&G exploration".

Some people here might consider you some sort of energy expert -but your lies and mistruths get no respect from me.

He was a research Fellow 20 years ago. That is all That does not mean he worked in system operations or a Trading or dispatch centre. His paper shows that he has no working knowledge of how the system works
The costs are to replace thermal generation which is the thrust of his paper. To replace the 1500MW of thermal, you need about 5GW of wind. Now how much will that cost.
You want to build a 1300MW power station and tap into a line that is already heavily loaded and rated at 600MW. Yeah right. Go and read the Transpower report on what it would take to get Manapouri to market if Tiwai shut down.
German regularly has negative pricing on its power. It pays anywhere else to take its electricity. The countries to the East don't want the power so they put phase shifters on their transformers. From the Danish Power Report Summary "Germany had negative spot prices in 147 hours in 2017. The two Danish price zones have 84 and 58 hours with negative prices. Norway and Sweden did not have negative spot prices at all. The standard deviation is an indicator of the price volatility. It was nearly 18 €/MWh in Germany and less than 5 €/MWh in southern Norway (NO2).
It is a main problem in Germany that most of the wind power is concentrated in the northern part of the country. It is much faster to build wind turbines than to reinforce the grids. It is another problem that Germany is only one price zone (together with Luxembourg and Austria). The result of these two problems is that the volatile German electricity market rubs off onto the Danish markets, and that most Danish wind power peaks cannot be exported to Germany. The correlation (R) between Danish wind power and the export capacity (DK1 to DE) is 0.48.
Denmark depends on exports of wind power variations. The alternative is curtailment of wind energy. There are limitations on export to Sweden and Germany. There is still Norway left, but it is understandable that the Danish TSO, Energinet works hard to establish interconnections to new markets, i.e. the Netherlands and England. "

And seeing as you namecalled Foyle and refuse to acknowledge your mistakes, you are in no position to complain about others without being seen as a hypocrite.

Chris you are oil and gas shrill. You cannot even admit that Assoc Prof Bardsley when he wrote the pumped hydro paper in 2005 had been working for Meridan for 5 years. Your evidence that he knows nothing about the electricity system is you disagree with the paper. FFS that is pathetic. Throughout this comment stream you have mislead and denigrated everything that does not favour oil and gas.

Again, the paper is 2005 and written by a hydrologist. So it takes into account no other technologies or their advances of the last 15 years. Sure he worked for Meridian, 14 years ago, then he moved on. Maybe then you should be asking why Meridian being 100% renewable has not pursued this project at all?

The problem with high spot prices is the energy market works like this, so fix the market.

Certainly we need move to 100% renewables, needing to get to 120% our present output within a decade due to Peak oil let alone CC. However so far I see nothing but the clueless wasting time because the decisions and work needed is out of their league.

Yes Earl Bardsley moved to being an Associate Professor of the Science and Engineering Faculty at Waikato University.

Brendon you spreading false facts because you cannot do basic research. Here is Associate Professor (hydrology) Dr W Earl Bardsley's publication record
In all of them, he lists his affiliation as Department of Earth Sciences Waikato University. He wasn't a Meridian employee. So we can add this to anothjer of your errors that you don't admit to.

Chris give it up. You have clearly been exposed as deliberately misleading the readers with your statements about Prof Bardsley electricity industry experience.

So your answer to facts that you won't contest is namecalling. Nice one.

Prof Earl Bardsley was Meridans Energy Senior Research Fellow for the 5 year prior to him writing his Pumped Hydro paper. Chris you cannot deny that Bardsley had electricity industry experience.

My son got a scholarship from one of the power companies to do his Masters on a problem they were having. That does not give him electricity industry experience. Being a research fellow just gives you money - from the timing, he was probabty looking at issues around the drainage for the North Bank scheme. At the same time he was also supervising Masters students so it would have been a paper study..
You are trying to confer false expertise on someone who is a competent academic. Dr Bardsley isn't claiming industry experience. As has already been pointed out, he has no understanding of the geology, civil engineering, electrical engineering or operational conditions. All he did was say here is a couple of valleys where if we build dams, we could store water.
Now you can go back to your stupid ideas. I have to go to work. Wind is a failure yet again and the spot prices mean that thermal generators have to run.

By going back to work Chris do you mean going back to work for the oil and gas industry? Interesting that you say wind power is a failure and the spot prices mean that thermal generators have to run.

Have spot prices gone up by more than 50%? If pumped hydro was built it would have a buying price of say $50MWh where it would pump water to store to it's high basin. Then given this 'battery' is 80% efficient it would need at least 25% increase in prices to cover that energy loss. But it would also need to cover the costs of its civil works. So it might set its selling price at 50% above its buying price to give a decent return on capital expenditure. Let's say $75MWh.

How would a big new electricity player that bought power at $50MWh and sold at $75MWh affect your industry -the thermal plants Chris?

Quit playing the man.

and IIRC Chris works mostly on geothermal stuff. Go find another strawman to beat up.

Oh diddums. Chris has repeatedly abused me. Calling me stupid etc. Yet he fails to answer reasonable questions that his self proclaimed engineering expertise would indicate he knows the answer to. Clearly Chris has knowledge of the electricity industry from the info he has given, So it is pretty obvious this pattern of being abusive, failing to answer reasonable questions and spreading mistruths is a sign that his self-interest is being threatened.

*shrug* Continue making a fool of yourself. I know for sure i wont bother reading any more of your crap.

More abuse and refusing to answer reasonable questions indicates what?

And here is an article about the phase shifters and why they had to be installed

Chris why are pumped hydro academics in Australia getting national awards while you denigrate NZs pumped hydro academics? Why is pumped hydro a good idea in Australia but a bad idea in NZ? Is it because NZ pumped hydro threatens your beloved oil and gas industry?

Fascinating discussion. Reminds me why reading this blogsite is not a waste of my life.

Wonder if it is feasible to pump largely fresh water from Doubtful Sound, in to Lake Manapouri, using West Coast wind; to keep Manapouri full and to use excess electricity for the adjoining grid. Water could drain back to Doubtful Sound and produce more hydro also when raining.

Most certainly that is possible, they have two tunnels available already and it could be supplemented by pumping the Tasman Sea uphill.
Which reminds me of the research on Perpetual Motion machines, excellent work and you can read all about it.

The lake level of Manapouri is strictly regulated by the Guardians of the Lake which was one of the public conditions of the hydro scheme. It cannot be flooded to a higher level. So no it is not possible.

The Waitaki and Clutha lakes are the more problematic dams for running dry.

"to keep Manapouri full"

"to keep Manapouri full"

Haha, I'm sure the fish in the lake will not take kindly to that idea.
Salt water in all the cooling systems of Manapouri Power station. Do you have shares in the maintenance contractor there?

Just joking, this article reads like morning tea at the physics department where they throw wacky ideas around.

I’m a lot more interested in the pumped hydro than hydrogen.

We need to talk about incentivising solar uptake so we have more variable production to pump. Brendon is right, Norway is crushing this so why can’t we?

Are there no viable pump hydro opportunities in the North Island closer to the major demand centres?

Regarding the South Island train line, I’m sceptical about the capital costs of a major hydrogen production facility, transfer infrastructure, costs plus modified locomotives. When you consider the long term costs of a hydrogen infrastructure that solely benefits one train line, it might be cheaper and more expedient to just fork out the $3B.

Fair call Hardly. Pumped hydro is good to go. NZ should do it.

Hydrogen vehicles are still in the experimental or trialling stage. So it is natural to be cautious. I think it would be relatively painless to trial two hydrogen trains for the Coastal Pacific route. The trains themselves are about $10m. How much can the hydrogen capital and operating costs be? $5m a year? Total $50m for a five year trial. Which is nothing in the bigger transport budget.

This gives the hydrogen industry a genuine chance to see what efficiencies can be made and NZ Inc gets some tourism promotional benefits.

Going forward though the hydrogen transport industry has to compete on a level playing field with electric battery vehicles.

The Low Emission Contestable Fund should be available for both electric battery and hydrogen vehicles on a equal basis and there should be no other business subsidies.

Also from Parliament a statement by the Minister of Energy on 7th November 2018
"We can have confidence because, as I talked about in the reading of the legislation yesterday, there is a large body of evidence that shows that impediments to the transitions to renewable aren't either financial or technical; they're around political will, and this Government doesn't lack in that. That member can have great comfort in the fact that in this country, we have hundreds of megawatts of consented but not yet built renewable energy. We also know that technological change to store the roughly 6 terawatts of surplus energy we produce in summer that we can use in winter is coming not just through battery power but through things like molten salt, like hydrogen, and a range of other storage facilities. I invite that member to join the 21st century."
So we have established that she does not know the difference between power and energy.

Where was this guy at New Year's? Clearly the drugs he's taking are far more powerful than anything I can get hold of! It only took me a couple of days to come back to reality.

I'm doing a mental experiment:
If I was tasked with the responsibility for investing $1000 taken off each Kiwi household to provide secure access to supplies, trade, manufacturing, and services at the best price with the highest reliability... I would use facts and appropriate engineering analysis and I would specify technologies with high reliability and best value. I do my research work on Transition Engineering which requires a 100 year view and meeting environmental and social imperatives, so I would also consider that the investment should provide the transition to low carbon and resilience. I have a specialisation in combustion as well as renewable energy so I would use specifications for available equipment. I would not be relying on commentators or advertising to determine the technical feasibility of different options. This investment would be a big responsibility. It would require a great deal of analysis of what the values of different freight duties and personal transport actives actually are, and how those values support other economic and social actives, induce costs or provide multiple benefits. I would build logistics models of different options and compare them based on the measures of merit. I would have to work with some colleagues to use their accurate models of the NZ electricity generation, grid and loads to understand how any new electric loads for transport would impact or be integrated. I would also look very hard at the other uses of electricity and why demand has not really grown for 10 years and how it might decline further as we get much, much smarter in how we use electricity in industry and households, as old lights and appliances are replaced.

I'm not going to speculate on how I would invest in the future on behalf of the best quality of life for NZ here in a comment section of a pretty floppy article. But I can tell you for sure that I would not spend any of that money on a demonstration project for a hydrogen train, truck or car. That would be irresponsible and silly.

Thanks for joining the conversation Susan, though it won't do much good. Brendon has already rubbished you because you won't confirm his prejudices.

Thanks for commenting Susan.

Train maker Alstrom and the German state of Lower Saxony would disagree wrt the wisdom of experimenting with hydrogen vehicles as they have actually built a working hydrogen train.

Engineers would be needed to cost any pumped hydro schemes -because that is their area of expertise.

But the full cost benefit analysis would require input from economists. They are the people who have studied markets. They could assess how much benefit extra hydro lake storage would provide in reduced spot prices. What the effect would be on ease of entry for new entrants (new generators). How to structure the build contract. And so on

Economists could distinguish between positive economics being about objective costs and benefits and normative economics -the value New Zealanders might get for achieving zero carbon. But ultimately that would be political or democratic question.

I know the new development team at one of the gentailers, and they definitely don't use economists. They have financial models that new investment needs to meet, but that is commerce or quants wizzkids, not economics.

I know some the regulators at the Electricity Commission. They have a healthy respect for economics. Unlike you Chris. So far you have rejected economists, hydrologists, the Earth Science Department....

Seeing as the Electricity Commission became the Electricity Authority in 2010, it yet again shows your lack of knowledge. The Electricity Authority is a major cause of what is wrong with the industry. There is no-one there who knows how a power station or the grid runs. That is why they are in so many legal disputes.
You said the hydrologist was an engineer. He isn't.

Interesting that you dislike the Electricity Commission and the Electricity Authority. So that's another group we can add to the list of people you do not like Chris Morris?
Who do you like Chris? The gas industry?

What's with the polarising labels? Debating issues like this is good but trying to write people off in that way doesn't help with your credibility.

There is a group of commenters here who are using the same attack lines as Whaleoil. You can either take a robust approach to them or give them free reign to spread misinformation... Perhaps I could have been more diplomatic but it essentially a no win situation.

I appreciate that but you're still doing it by associating commenters with Whaleoil (them). This isn't a topic where people need to be politically labeled so they can be written off. As far as I can see a "robust" discussion is being had, just because your opinions haven't been agreed with wholly doesn't condone the group labelling.

Jesus I need to change my name from Snow as I sound like a bloody Snowflake :)

Snow it is a polemic debate. They tend to go this way. You should have seen some of the housing debates on this website with Hugh Pavletich..... of course he got banned.... so you do have a have a point.

Ms Krumdieck: look at it from the point of view of an interested layman - how do we get a handle on an issue of such complexity. When it comes to the political decisions it is the concensus of interested voters that wins - not the highly educated academics who have spent their lives studying the issues. OK if you are lucky we just say - ask the expert and that works for say building new schools and sewage plants. However when the interested public has strong but ill-informed opinions you get our drug laws etc.

In the past govt investment in energy suppies was simple - just do what we did in the past until something better comes along [power stations using coal, oil, gas, nuclear, thermal, hydro]. But the one thing we do know is the future will be different if for no other reason than the oil will run out - we can actually see it changing - solar panels, wind farms, tidal, etc. Where do we find an impartial overview of a very complex matter?

Lapun, I just keep teaching undergraduates real facts and methodologies. And I just keep doing research based on science. And I just keep learning new things from people who now real things. And I just keep giving HONEST advice.

The truth is that the general public does not design power grids, operate power grids, or keep hydro schemes balanced. The public is concerned about their ability to do their work, live a decent quality of life and pay a fair price for publicly funded goods. NZ has an unbelievable legacy of publicly funded goods in the hydro schemes, power grid, geothermal exploration and development, and national rail system. NZ has a legacy of big mistakes letting the rail system get run down and a terrible legacy of substandard homes and buildings. Dreaming about pumped storage and hydrogen is silly compared to re-developing that legacy of old suburban stock and fuel switching space heating to wood pellets. We all do know where the winter peak demand comes from? We wouldn't find a way to argue about that would we?

The most elegant way to go forward and be smart is to ask people who know things, and stick to your guns that people take responsibility and be sensible. It doesn't matter if people get a bit clickbait crazy and believe that the Germans have hydrogen trains. That is a created fact, not a real fact. It's harmless for people to enjoy dreaming about fantastical technology ideas - unless they are a politician in a position of power to spend our tax money. Then we need to insist that they get accurate information, ask questions and be willing to earn our respect by backing away from a position if it turns out they got bad advice from junior ministry workers with overactive googling enthusiasm.

Thanks....most expertese comment Ive seen in what is otherwise a whole load of doggy doo doo.

I do have some comments though,

a) "I do my research work on Transition Engineering which requires a 100 year view and meeting environmental and social imperatives"

Oil is gone inside of 40 years and the output is set to decline, ergo while a 100 year view is valid not the implementation. Of course the "free market" has the attention span of probably not even 100 hours let alone 100 years so it is down to the Govn to do the deed and they lack the ability given democracy.

b) No carbon not low carbon IMHO.

c) In terms of what you would do the scale of this project would be on the size of the logistics and speed of WW2.

You can't even admit that you stuffed up on the name, can you, Brendon. Shows why your credibility is zero and dropping.

And if you want to know what is wrong with the EA, read the Transmission Pricing Methodology and the problems it has caused

Hook a Stirling Engine spinning a decent size genny, to this here thread, stat, mods. There's enough heat potential here to help out the National Grid, once converted to moving electrons......

One aspect that seems to have escaped the notice of participants, is that, as in my own case, the self-consumed or time-shifted via battery solar PV is not counted in any way by the regulators, lines companies, or anyone else but the monitoring sites for the solar rigs. To the extent that excess solar is exported to the grid, yes, then that is counted. But in circumstances where the default setting is 'maximise self-consumption' and in the absence of export from PV to Grid, all that the grid sees is much less, or zero, demand from that household.

So unless there are some clevver algo's to estimate this self-consumed generation - say, on the difference between that household and some national average point of comparison for the season - there is a gaping hole in the entire supply-demand picture.

For example, as I type (one finger, G&T in hand) the solar (320w), plus battery discharge (340w) is running the house load (670w) fairly much entirely, and at 63% of battery, that scenario will coast us through till Night Rate clicks in at 2100 hours, with zero or minimal call on the grid, however those grid electrons are generated:


Sadly domestic PV costs about 3x Utility scale PV. It is more efficient to put the money into the utility scale - except that Transpower raise wholesale price of electricity generated by a factor of 3 for retail customers :(

Cheap home batteries and battery electric cars will make it cheaper for most of us to ditch the grid connection (use cars as emergency power backup for home)

Sadly agree, Foyle. From any economic perspective, my home solar rig was underwater on Day 1. But as a conversion of investment cash to productive equipment, it cannot be OBR'ed, and will continue to deliver utility for at least 25 years (with a battery replacement around year 12-15).

"domestic PV costs about 3x Utility scale PV" got some URLs (NZ?) on this? I have been searching for some time trying to get really good info on this while I listen to the Green party want to install on houses which strikes me more of vote buying than being green.

I do have this, "Using a Reference Case and five scenarios with varying investment tax credit (ITC), PV cost,
inflation, and financing parameters, the study finds that customer generation costs per solar
MWh are estimated to be more than twice as high for residential-scale systems than the
equivalent amount of utility-scale PV systems. "

Of course this is in the US where there are subsidies/tax credits. In NZ given no subsidies, and higher retail costs x3 doesnt sound un-reasonable and might even be low.'s_service_area.pdf?1436797265

Regarding battery powered trains.

Trains are different from other vehicles in that they are designed to drop and pick up carriages.

Therefore if you could only afford 150km of battery, it might still be practical to repeatedly swap it out every 150kms kind of like those iPhone cases with the spare batteries in them. You could have a battery stations every 150kms up to the south island or mix and match with some sections with overhead lines and the more sparse/expensive sections to wire use the battery.

Just a thought.

That's not a bad idea. Maybe the electric batteries could be standard transport containers designed to be moved on and off transport vehicles quickly and efficiently...

Yeah the trick would be how difficult it is to change out the second carriage in terms of infrastructure and how many people it takes - would be interesting to hear from a train person on this.

Make the battery pack similar in design to a std 40' container, and hoist the battery pack on and off the rail car chassis without uncoupling cars. Some minor automation on the railcar chassis to make and break the electrical connections.

Should be able to fully automate it relatively easily, a bit of vision software to locate the clamps. Just not sure how easy it is make connectors for a couple thousand amps at a couple of kV.

Wow that is great idea, plug and play.

Electrification would be the cheapest long term solution.

Not a bad idea. Trains use about half the energy per tonne-km that Tesla semi is hoping to achieve, so 1000km range is easily possible for a battery train. Would need very few recharging stops or depots.

Better still fit deployable bogies to the electric trucks and run them on the railways when it makes sense for the routes they are on. Everyone wins then (less trucks on road, less energy use, easier autonomous operation).

Very interesting article Brendon. Maybe would have upset the 'engineers' less if it had been two articles. I don't have much interest in the big size pumped hydro other than to say distributed storage (and generation) may be the way of the future. If the political nouse is there to set up appropriate regulation. A big if.
However hydrogen train with own wind farm(s) for fuel creation is a original idea and congratulations for it. My comment would be that hydro varies year on year. But wind is reliable year on year although of course not day on day. The storage of course is the actual hydrogen. Between the wind production and the train consumption. Just might have to have a big storage capacity

Thanks KH it was a fun holiday article that was a bit different to my usual topics. I had not thought the pumped hydro aspect would get so much attention.

Brendon. Given the year on year reliability of wind hydrogen storage may not be needed based on the dry year(s) scenarios. Maybe the math would show you only needed to protect hydrogen supply for short periods of calm.

Yes it might work. Perhaps Alstrom the hydrogen train builder and NEL the hydrogen infrastructure provider should talk to one of NZs power companies with consented but unbuilt wind power to do that maths.

The Hazer process produces hydrogen from methane but with the carbon sequestered as extremely valuable battery grade graphite. Ask Hiringa Energy.
However as yet the process is not fully commercially proven.
For methane source not just natural gas but also waste streams from rubbish and stranded sources which often have non exploitable resource for mass volume. Plant size range is likely to be very wide so any source is usable.

In 1998 Ontario’s Dr. Alistaire Miller of Atomic Energy of Canada wrote a paper showing why large (rail, marine trucks) FC apps are far easier to introduce than “retail” (cars). He was right, as we see today. Media engineering kept the public focused on cars (which advertise) rather than the easy HFC technologies, which languished.

So have a look at more modern storage technology that is looking to be cheaper than hydro storage, placable any where, instant and quite cheap.

Also has some interesting graph(s) showing the diffeent technology options.

Hey really good video from Prof Sadoway. My take on his research (that he is turning into commercial enterprises) is it is about producing a new type of battery for the electricity grid that is price competitive with pumped hydro storage but doesn't have the geographic limitations of pumped hydro.

Heavy transport, battery v hydrogen. If Tesla keeps up its present trajectory battery HGVs are only a few years away with a payback of a few years. Battery charging, EVs are now looking at 100kw charging rates and being charged in 10s of minutes. Every generation of cars gets to charge faster and gets cheaper. Hydrogen has to compete with this tremendous development rate and personally I do not see it at present ever being viable (but I'll keep an open mind).

Lithium has terrible energy density (per weight) -so I am not convinced Tesla trucks will ever work -their range and weight they can haul will be limited by heavy batteries. Hydrogen has good energy density per weight (comparable to liquid fossil fuels) but bad per volume. Hydrogen though has bad round trip energy efficiency when used as a battery. Pumped Hydro is good but has geographic limits. Prof Sadoway is right -we need something else for the general 'scalable' solution. But if a country has good geographic resources in pumped hydro like NZ it could be useful.

Looking at the economics of the Tesla semi the payback is huge. "I am not convinced" no harm in being skeptical, however when looking at which way to bet on the one side we have someone so brilliant as an engineer that he is in the same league as Edison and Brunel v a journalist with no engineering training. I know which side I bet on.

I've only just noticed these comments and realised I was the subject of some discussion with respect to pumped storage. I'm not out to change views or re-start arguments, but I've put up a post which gives some update on our Onslow work at Waikato University.

Thank you.

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