Saturday, 23 March 2013


by Scott Willis  

An intense week in Wellington at the end of March helped cap a very full month for Blueskin energy. As the guest of the NZ Wind Energy Association invited to present on our project, I valued not only the interest in community wind, but also exposure in a sector that is actively working on the transition to a low carbon future. We learned, at the conference, of the significant risk we all face if we don't make a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. We learnt of the massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and the 'free market' principles applied only to renewables. We heard from politicians, international experts, developers, ecologists, industry and, of course, community. So what does all this mean for Blueskin? Firstly, it means a great deal of interest in the model we're forging. Secondly, it reveals a great deal of goodwill, even from the big players, towards community wind which is truly at a different scale and with a different focus to 'big wind'. But don't forget, industry is populated by real people who love low carbon technology and who have found a place to follow their passion. And if we all directed economic activity towards simply building greater resilience, rather than shareholder profit, things would look very different. Not that economics don't matter – far from it, in fact. Rather, let's get a correct hierarchy of values: (a) low carbon; (b) healthy society; (c) sound local economy.

So how are we going on that? We're currently continuing the data collection and correlating the new 30 metre data against the long-term 10 metre data. Parallel work streams are taking place, including working on an appropriate legal form to take us into development, ensuring we have the resources in place to get us to 'go' at the correct time and place to push the green button. At a bigger level, the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust (BRCT) has approved an annual plan which includes continuing to deliver projects to build the local economy and deliver good community outcomes, whether in improving our homes and health, doing strategic planning, or saving residents' dollars as we invest in sustainable options.

Back to energy news. In Wellington I also had an opportunity to visit a trial hybrid renewable energy generation and storage system on Somes Island along with some wonderful bird life. A small robust wind turbine, solar panels, and a lead-acid battery bank are the conventional elements of off-grid generation and storage. But what is innovative is the electrolyser that uses excess electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and store the hydrogen in what they call 'earth batteries'. That hydrogen can then be used as needed, from different locations, either directly for heating/cooking, or converted back into electricity. In other news, the second Energy Advice Workshop in Pine Hill (a partnership between BRCT, Presbyterian Support Otago and the Pine Hill community) will have been completed by the end of March.

Visit us at:, or at the office at 1121 Mt Cargill Rd, Waitati (on Waitati School grounds). Telephone enquiries can be made on 482 2048 (the wind cluster) and 482 2207 (energy advice) and for any information about the solar project email Chris Le Breton at

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