Monday, 23 November 2009

WAITATI ENERGY PROJECT (column)

WAITATI ENERGY PROJECT

by Scott Willis

Distributed Generation / Renewable Generation

Distributed Generation (DG) is the big theme this month. The Blueskin
Resilient Communities Trust (BRCT - the charitable trust supporting
Transition Town initiatives and sustainability initiatives in Blueskin
Bay) was successful in its bid to the Energy Efficiency and
Conservation Authority's DG fund in November, and now we have the
ability to build our business model. Over the next three months (with
a pause for Christmas) we'll be working with accountants Polson Higgs
and our partners on the financial feasibility of a community owned
wind turbine. We'll also be working to find the appropriate business
shape for community ownership and broad community benefit. Of course,
the WEP office will still be engaged in all the other activities, but
time will be limited for anything non-essential as we work hard to see
if we can generate, own and manage our own electricity.

The DG fund from EECA helps us to build the business case. After all,
nothing can proceed if we can't ensure it makes good economic sense.
Alongside the business case, we need to make progress on the technical
front, and nothing is sitting still here either. Two wind test sites
(Mopanui Ridge and Double Hill Rd) are still being monitored, and data
is being collected. A third site, with a taller tower, has yet to be
selected but several are under consideration and the third tower will
be in place before the end of the year. Alice Bowden, Nicolas Cullen's
Masters student, is working from the University of Otago Geography
department with this part of the project and we're receiving valuable
assistance from our partners at Windflow Technology Limited and
PowerNet Limited.

As the project to develop our own community generation comes ever
closer to fruition we will need to do more than just talk about it in
the 'Blueskin News' and at the odd public meeting. So in parallel with
the business and technical feasibility work, we'll be working out a
comprehensive consultation plan. Because while community support for
this project has been fantastic to date, we can't assume that there
won't be any issues and we want to ensure that everyone has the
ability to participate in the development of this community project,
and feels comfortable doing so.

A Comunity Organisations Grants Scheme grant this month has given us
funds towards developing the BRCT office, an increasingly important
task as the workload increases. Thank you to all the applicants for
the BRCT admin position – it is wonderful to have such interest in the
community and exciting to see local employment options emerge in the
sustainability sector. We're anticipating our office to be fully
staffed again in the new year, and our long-term goal is to establish
this position as another long term position.

East Otago Collaboration on Solar

Since the very successful "In Transition" film premiere we've been
maintaining the good level of dialogue with other East Otago
transition and sustainability groups and this collaboration has taken
the form of an application for funds to work together on a specific
action: solar hot water. If successful, WEP will collaborate with the
Hampden Energy Group, Port Chalmers Transition Town and Transition
Valley 473 (North East Valley) to build a case for a broad scale solar
hot-water system rollout. The funding applied for is limited. However,
the momentum around this action is strong, so I envisage this becoming
a serious effort in 2010, by hook or by crook.

Turbine Fund Launched

The 350 Spring Festival on 24 October was too good an opportunity to
miss. We had our own little 'Waitati corner' beside the Weggies on
Portsmouth Drive and were serenaded by the Waitati Militia Band on
their way back from drumming up the mayor. So what was more
appropriate than bring out the teapot for donations? While the funds
raised on the 24th were only a tiny contribution towards the cost of a
community turbine, it was a strong symbolic start. We'll be designing
our fundraising strategy alongside the business case, and now that the
Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust has been officially registered as
a charity with IRD we have the ability to give donors a tax credit.
The Spring Festival was a very successful day of action on climate
change, and a great networking day. Quite apart from being bombarded
with interest and being engaged in stimulating conversations, I was
left with a profound optimism in the ability of society to make a
difference.

Reviewing our activities this year is very satisfying, and nothing
more so than the WEP Retrofit Rollout. EnergySmart, the main
contractors, report that they've done all the Quality Audits, bar a
handful of homes whose residents have proved very elusive. They're now
completing the small amount of remedial work, in a very successful end
to 2009's energy efficiency initiative. 2009 has also seen the WEP's
capacity grow, with a two-person office and the very strong support of
a healthy volunteer community. As the year draws to a close, the
initially slow and cautious development of the Renewable Generation
project has just stepped up a pace, and like a slingshot, will propel
us into 2010 with great momentum (check out 'Blueskin 10:10' as well).
On behalf of the Waitati Energy Project and the Blueskin Resilient
Communities Trust I want to wish you a great holiday break. Remember
to save some dollars if you're going away by turning off your hot
water and don't neglect to make the most of our beautiful local
environment and time with the family.

For more information about WEP or BRCT initiatives, contact me at:
waitatienergy@gmail.com, or by calling the BRCT office on 4822048.
You'll also find plenty of information on the website
http://transitiontowns.org.nz/waitati or by going on the WEP 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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