As New Zealand's demand for energy continues to increase many electricity suppliers are increasingly looking at renewable energy, from wind and solar to tidal sources.
The energy resources in Southland are therefore considered nationally significant as Southland has a range of energy opportunities including six billion tonnes of recoverable lignite reserves, wind generation opportunities, potential wave and tidal options, as well as potential on-shore and off-shore oil and gas reserves located in the Great South Basin.
A significant proportion of New Zealand's energy generation comes from renewable hydro-electric and wind power. Meridian Energy built their first South Island wind farm development in 2007 at White Hills, near Mossburn, in Southland. This is a 58MW farm that generates enough electricity for around 30,000 homes.
Next to be opened in 2015 was the Flat Hill Wind Farm that lies approximately 3 km from Bluff. The farm consists of eight 44 metre high, 8.50kWh turbines with a total generation capacity of 6.8 MW. The farm is expected to generate up to 26GWh of renewable energy annually, enough to supply electricity to around 2,600 homes.
Southland has a strong natural wind resource and further developments in this sector are planned.
Hydro-electric power stations
New Zealand's largest hydro-electric power station (850MW) is located in Southland, on Lake Manapouri in Fiordland National Park. It generates approximately 15% of the country's electricity. There are also other minor hydro-electric power stations at Monowai and Mataura.
Oil & Gas
There has been renewed interest in oil and gas exploration, both on-shore and off the Southland coast. The Great South Basin lies offshore from the coast of Southland and South Otago, and at over 500,000 sq km is one of New Zealand's largest potential oil and gas basins (covering an area 1.5 times New Zealand's land mass). Data indicates that the Great South Basin may have the greatest petroleum volume potential of all New Zealand's basins. For more information on this, please visit Oil, Gas and Minerals NZ.
Lignite & minerals
Southland sits on 72% of the national recoverable coal and lignite reserves, which has created interest in the potential energy options available and directing attention towards regional lignite deposits and sub-bituminous coals
A range of minerals in Southland may also be considered for extraction and other value-added opportunities. Silicon, for example, has gained importance with increasing demand from the photovoltaic and electronic industry sectors.