A breath of fresh air
While the council's first moves after announcing their "carbon neutral" aspirations were dubious to the point of being counter-productive, here's one very tiny step in the right direction. Vector Energy is trialling urban micro-turbines, first in Waitakere and then in Wellington. The respective councils are taking part in the initiative, and our Mayor was quoted in the announcement as saying:
... she is delighted Wellington has been chosen to trial this new initiative, which fits well with Wellington's recently adopted carbon neutral vision.Well, if you ignore all the puffery, it certainly fits better than cheap parking and more expensive public transport! According to the manufacturer's website (from where I grabbed this photo), each of their "Swift" turbines "produces more energy in its lifetime than is incorporated in the materials and processes used to manufacture it", so while it might take a while to pay off the capital cost, in the long term these are a great idea.
"Wellington is the home of creativity and innovation and therefore very amenable to new initiatives that will ultimately benefit our city and, indeed, the rest of New Zealand. We know that alternative renewable energy sources are crucial for sustainability. We look forward to the trial."
Large scale wind-farms will still be needed, but the fact that urban microgeneration is entering the mainstream is good news. These models look fairly utilitarian, but looking around me at a skyline of satellite dishes, aerials and air conditioning units, I'd say that if anything they'd have a positive effect on the visual environment. Some people aren't content with turbines that look merely okay, though: Tara-iti Wind Kinetics is a local blog that researches the question: "Would residential wind-turbines develop a widespread application if they were to be marketed as kinetic sculpture, in a manner akin to exquisite architectural fittings?" I've seen some of the author's designs, and they really do look beautiful.
I've often promoted the idea of a waterfront "eco-centre" (though preferably with a less cheesy name) that is not only the site of, but also a living example of, research into sustainable building and energy technology. There should be nothing to stop Wellington designing and even building our own turbines and other systems, and a research centre that acts as a very visible laboratory would be a great way of promoting these ideas. The DOC and Meridian buildings are a good start, but rather than just reducing energy consumption, the next step would be for buildings to become net energy exporters.
Also, now that the council is set to spend $220 million on upgrading social housing, wouldn't it be great if some of it could go towards something like this project in London? Combining local design, environmental sustainability and affordable housing: that would really be "creativity and innovation".