Brian Burns

Brian Burns asks “if we were to ride into ‘Ecoville’ late one night – how would we recognise it, and would he like to live there?”.   Brian describes his experiences when he set his University of  Carleton Industrial Design students off to explore Ecoville.

Shane’s number of the week: 3,000,000,000    The contribution to US agriculture from insect eating bats is estimated at US$3billion (less conservative estimates range up to $54B).      US biologist Tom Kunz and his team calculated this from a study of savings in pesticide costs in 8 counties in Texas ($74 per acre) then extrapolated to the US at large, adjusting for bat populations and local levels of agricultural productivity to produce a nationwide bat .   With bats threatened by careless wind-turbine development in major flyways and, more pressingly, by White Nose Syndrome decimating colonies, protecting them isn’t just ethical – it makes sense on every level.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: In which Sam is conflicted.  In 1980 New Zealand had 73%  hydro electricity generation. By  2007 this had dropped to 55%.   Load growth has been largely met by building new gas and coal fired thermal power stations. Consequently CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2005 rose 134% (Barry and Chapman 2009).     With rivers nearing capacity, wind power is about the only option left.  New Zealand currently meets only 2% of its electricity needs through wind generation.   Denmark already has 20%.   This low uptake in NZ is despite being the best place in the world for the efficiency of wind turbines.  Our wind and hills means wind effective turbine productivity is 45%, double the global average (next highest is Australia at 35%, Denmark, for example is only 24%).

So why am I so conflicted?  This weekend I went to the open day of the new Mahinerangi windfarm, near Dunedin.   And I’m in two minds – or rather four hands.   On one hand an extremely efficient source of power, on the other an excuse for us not to face the real problem of profligate consumption. On one hand bespoiling a stunning landscape (and these are 12 of planned 100 in this site alone), on the other these giant structures are seriously elegant.