Tuesday, 23 June 2009

WAITATI ENERGY PROJECT (column)

WAITATI ENERGY PROJECT

Photo: A Windflow turbine, from www.windflow.co.nz

By Scott Willis

Rounding up the Retrofit Rollout

Even since before the Budget insulation has been in the news and now
that the WEP Retrofit Rollout is winding up it's great that a new
nation-wide retrofit programme is being established. The whole WEP
Retrofit Rollout process has been very rewarding (378+ applications!)
and nothing beats the appreciation expressed by someone whose health
and budget has improved dramatically with the insulation retrofit.
It's not something that can be easily explained, it really has to be
experienced, but an insulation retrofit in the middle of winter really
is instant gratification. A big thank you to all who have shared the
retrofit experience with us: feedback has been overwhelmingly
positive. As you can imagine, the last weeks of June have been pretty
mad, and a final round-up will only be possible once all the dust has
settled (end of July).

The new subsidies from the 1st of July mean one third (up to $1300) of
costs covered for all New Zealanders wanting to retrofit insulation,
and up to 60% of costs for Community Service Card Holders. There is an
additional $500 subsidy for a clean heat source (further details can
be found on our website, or call the WEP).

Renewable Generation

Let's imagine that the current wind testing (at sites on the ridge
below Mopanui and off Double Hill Rd) gives results showing we have
the perfect wind profile for a 500 kW wind turbine. Where to from
there? At our June 17th OERC-WEP meeting Bob Lloyd, head of Energy
Studies at the University of Otago was very clear about the immediate
necessity to construct renewable generation. Essentially, Bob argues,
as we enter Peak Oil we're entering an 'energy crunch'. You need energy
to build energy generators: wind turbines and solar
panels need to be built now using oil and gas (in fact they needed
to be built 20 years ago). In 30 years the world will have half the
easy energy we have now and the climate change challenges along with
population pressures will further complicate an already very difficult
predicament: how to build infrastructure with even fewer resources and
many more demands on what we have? Bob offers a clear rational voice
when it comes to formulating action on renewables.

In New Zealand we have the best possibility of anywhere in the world to get
enough renewable generation up and running and maintaining a
sustainable way of life, but only if we act quickly. Could we do it in
Waitati and in Blueskin Bay? OK, suppose the tests are in, and the reports
are good. Where to from here? The site: some express concern that a
turbine might become a lethal obstacle for new populations of
sea-birds the eco-sanctuary may wish to introduce to Blueskin Bay (can
they dodge trees in the wind at night? Could they dodge one turbine
with slow blades?). How would we ensure the gains would be shared
equally, and how would we pay for it anyway? Would we go for a second-
hand turbine or buy NZ made, such as the Windflow 500? These are all
questions to be addressed, and over the next few months the WEP will
be collaborating with our partners and knowledgeable individuals to
formulate some social business ownership and management models for
renewable generation. We'll also be talking with suppliers about our
potential turbine needs and the sites, and we'll seek to open up the
discussion about the merits or otherwise of a community wind turbine.

In other renewable action, closer modelling of micro-hydro has
revealed less potential than originally thought (we should have clear
information on what we're doing here in July), while Lindsay Graham is
talking with suppliers of photovoltaics and solar hot water units for
local grid integrated generation (and reduction of demand). The
questions here: Do we have the demand for bulk purchase? What
would be the cost per household? Again, if we do this collectively we
may be able to use innovative social business models to secure funding
for this initiative. Our renewable generation team is working on
solving these questions and we have the partners to support our
efforts, so if you have a passion for problem solving or a technical
skill and would like to play a part in getting the blades turning, the
turbine spinning or capturing the solar energy, please get in touch.

Contact the WEP at: waitatienergy@gmail.com, or by calling 482 2048.
You'll also find plenty of regularly renewed information on the
website (http://transitiontowns.org.nz/waitati) or by going on the
email list.

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voluntary/non-profit community publishers in Blueskin Bay (Seacliff,
Warrington, Evansdale, Waitati, Doctors Point), Dunedin, New Zealand.
All material sent to or published by us is "copyleft" in the public
domain and may be freely shared, archived, re-edited and republished.
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