Friday, 28 June 2013

Blueskin Energy Project Column

By Scott Willis


Our Pine Hill Community Energy Advice project (in partnership with Presbyterian Support) is now complete. Many thanks to Chris Freear for managing this work and successfully giving residents the tools to become effective 'energy practitioners' for their community.

BRCT remains committed to providing community energy advice and has a wealth of resources at the BRCT office. We are also working towards running a 'Cosy Homes Workshop' later in the year, conditional on funding.

Meanwhile, small scale solar installations and preparations for installations are continuing in Blueskin – usually between 2 – 4kW arrays per household. On 4 July "Solarcity" (a national solar provider) is providing an 'installation workshop' for an already well subscribed group of Blueskin residents who will gain skills and learn about solar systems and connection to the grid. Solar and wind complement each other extremely well as these two renewable systems generate power at different times, meaning that the level of energy fed into the grid is more steady than that of a wind cluster or household photovoltaic arrays alone.

We can't build community energy resilience overnight or with just one system but we can when we take a strategic approach. You can find out more about solar in our leaflet at the library or on the BRCT website.

Work on the wind cluster continues apace as we seek expert appraisals on environmental effects that might result from the proposed development. It is important to have as robust expert information as possible (while doing so with the resources we have) and we are incredibly grateful to the experts who are contributing their expertise to the project.

While it is relatively straightforward to install wind turbines and generate electricity we also need to find out whether there would be any undesirable effects (i.e. would there be noise, and if so, would it bother anyone nearby? Would there be any traffic disruptions during construction, and if so, how many?), and not simply concentrate on the many positives. This is part of the process of preparing a Resource Consent application, which is my main work at present.

It is fascinating getting into the close detail of what building local wind generation will involve, and I was pleased recently to be able to look at the proposed site with Terry Jones, OtagoNet's 'Network Manager'. Terry was in Blueskin to look at the local network, appraise the substation, and get a feel for what upgrades are urgent. We took the opportunity to visit Porteous Hill. Although Terry has been helping closely with the project (for years), it was the first time he had visited the site and he was impressed at how close the 33kV lines are to the proposed site. This proximity will make connection very simple. And right now, evaluating the length of the trench for the underground cable to connect to the 33kV lines is just one of the small but crucial details that need to be included in the description of the project.

Once a full Resource Consent application draft is complete, another round of community engagement will take place to see if anything has been missed, before it is lodged with the DCC.

Visit us at: www.blueskinpower.co.nz, or at the office at 1121 Mt Cargill Rd, Waitati. Telephone enquiries can be made on 482 2048 (the Wind Cluster) and for any information about the solar project email solar@blueskinpower.co.nz.

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