by Scott Willis
I fell in love on Global Wind Day (15 June) with nine 850kWh wind turbines, cloaked in mist on the summit of Mt Stuart, the site of Pioneer Generation's newest renewable generation project. What a great community opening it was, with Metiria Turei, Eion Edgar, Allan Kane and farmer/landowner Rob Hewett all adding entertaining support to Pioneer's Fraser Jonker's opening address, amidst sausages, Waitahuna School artwork, cups of tea and coffee. Our small Blueskin team headed up into the snow and stood awed under the quiet majesty of these animated objects, quietly powering about 3000 local households – embedded generation feeding the local network.
What a lot has happened in June, and it is all working up to an exciting next six months for the Blueskin Energy Project (BEP). We're teaming up with the Energy Cultures Team at the University of Otago to conduct a small community energy advice trial between July – Nov 2012. In Blueskin (Long Beach, Purakaunui, Osborne, Waitati, Evansdale, Warrington), this will mean a small number of home energy assessments and a telephone advice service. Sign up to the BEP Update by emailing me if you want to be kept in the loop. As more of us understand the simple steps we can take in our own homes, get access to existing subsidies, etc, and begin budgeting for the more complex solutions, we'll all increase our energy awareness and be able to share skills and knowledge with neighbours and friends, and build greater resilience.
Last month I hinted at more on the financial side of the wind cluster. An economic site is determined not only by it's capacity factor – which is a crude measure of wind resource – but also by other factors including the cost of development, on-going maintenance, etc. All our analysis reveals that the returns we expect to get from investing in the wind cluster are in line with other wind developments in other parts of NZ, modelled here using the WindFlow 500 turbine. There's unlikely to be any immediate benefit in terms of your electricity price at this stage, but there'll be investment returns and wider community returns, once the wind cluster is operational.
Once we've held our next set of important community meetings in September (look out for them) we'll be in a position to decide on proceeding with establishing the business entity. The business entity, when established will be responsible for driving the project from that point on, i.e. securing legal contracts, devising investment options, raising finance, preparing the resource consent, and building the wind cluster. Until then we're commissioning a set of updated wind resource assessments and getting professional assistance with detailed financial modelling, while exploring the best options for selling the approximately 5.2 GW/hours of annual electricity production, expected from 4 WindFlow 500 turbines.
It was wonderful to see the great community support evident at the launch of the small Mt Stuart wind farm at Waitahuna – our project is smaller again, but what Pioneer have done is not only develop small wind technical skills. They've also demonstrated the economic viability of small wind and how that in turn benefits community as well.