Saturday, 23 January 2010

WAITATI ENERGY PROJECT (column)

WAITATI ENERGY PROJECT

By Scott Willis

Whose New Year's resolution was to reduce their carbon emissions by
10% in 2010? The 'Blueskin 10:10' initiative is a great public forum to
explore and share ideas and strategies and we're now firmly in the new
decade. For me transport will be a big focus as it seems to be an area
where I can easily alter some bad habits. And more generally in our
communities around Blueskin Bay, wouldn't it be helpful to have a
vibrant local economy, meaning less requirement to travel: imagine if
we had a local bakery, pub, designer clothes store, in addition to our
existing businesses for example.

Community Renewable Generation: Opportunity and Challenge

Five big players dominate electricity generation in NZ and the
electricity market wasn't designed to facilitate small-scale embedded
generation. Technically we can generate electricity and integrate our
generation into the local grid. We will find out whether there is the
community will to control our own energy, just as people in New Zealand did in
the past, as we develop the ownership formula, raise equity and go
through the resource consent process. However, we face the challenge of
participating in a 'Think Big' electricity market. We won't be able to
do it if we can't find a financially viable community model. That
model will have to provide value to the community in terms of stable
electricity supply and prices and by giving us the means to invest in
community development (for example, supporting our elderly residents, building
a cycleway-walkway, assisting youth, building greater energy
efficiency).

Deciding on what our renewable generation will be involves several
factors. We've already done pre-feasibility and worked out that at
this stage only community-scale wind turbines are feasible at present.
But we need some solid, long term, cross-referenced data on wind
speeds and consistency to guide us in the selection of turbine – will
we have enough wind for a Windflow 500 for example? And we need
analysis of our options in term of market participation. Can we own
and operate our own turbine and successfully participate in the
national market, or would we be best to seek a partner in
generation – a company already present in the market who might manage
our market risks in return for being able to build some generation
alongside ours? It's this type of question we have to consider while
doing the financial appraisal of a community wind turbine.

We're working with chartered accountants Polson Higgs and our other
partners to answer this challenge and to honour our obligations to the
Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (they're funding this
part of our work in return for our report). I'm aiming to have several
options we can collectively look at by the end of March. But we still
need to find the ideal site or sites.

Can you think of a site for our turbine(s)?

While we may find that one of our test sites is perfect for a turbine
(wind testing and profiling is already under way) we don't want to
overlook anything. Do you have any ideas, or own any local site that
you think would make the ideal site for a wind turbine? Such a site
would experience lots of wind regularly – it'd be high and exposed.
Ideally it would also be a visible reminder of what we're aiming for –
energy security and greater autonomy, and a reminder of how our
consumption is linked to production. Being close to the local grid and
close to existing roads is also a bonus – reducing the need for
further infrastructural development.

BRCT Office Expansion

I'm very pleased to say we've recently welcomed Lynn Robberts to the
Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust office. Lynn is managing
administration, assisting with fundraising and generally getting our
office sorted for the next few months. It is great to have a keen and
serious eye keeping things in order, and building up efficiency in our
office systems.

Turbine Field Trip

There will be an opportunity to visit Pioneer Generation's three wind
turbines at Horseshoe Bend in Central Otago early this year. For more
information contact Scott by email.

To let the WEP know about possible turbine sites, or more information
about WEP or BRCT initiatives, contact Scott at: waitatienergy@gmail.com,
or call the BRCT office on 482 2048. (There's also plenty of
information on the website http://transitiontowns.org.nz/waitati
or by joining the WEP email list).

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Ā ā Ē ē Ī ī Ō ō Ū ū
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voluntary/non-profit community publishers in Blueskin Bay (Seacliff,
Warrington, Evansdale, Waitati, Doctors Point), Dunedin, New Zealand.
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