Stewart Is may lead NZ in green power

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28 Apr 2008

Stewart Is may lead NZ in green power

Island to trial wind, solar power kits

By AMY MILNE - The Southland Times

The potential for Stewart Island to lead the way in renewable electricity generation is bright, according to Meridian subsidiary companies Right House and Elemental Energy.

The Stewart Island Community Board last week agreed to trial two 2kW photovoltaics (solar panels) and a 1.8kW wind turbine on the island.

James Capper is project delivery manager for Right House and Hamish Littin is general manager for Elemental Energy.

The two men were on the island last week with their team of electricians and plumbers to start installing the trial kit.

It is the first step by the Stewart Island Electricity Supply Authority (SIESA) and the subsidiary companies to provide cheaper and sustainable electricity generation to residents.

The trial kit's price tag is $45,000 but that cost will be absorbed into the overall project costs. SIESA will be billed for the kit if it opts out of continuing the project.

Mr Capper said Meridian's intention was to make it cheaper for New Zealanders to access renewable energy technology.

"Stewart Island's paying 52 cents per kilowatt hour. If we can make it (the technology) work here and demonstrate that it works here then it's good for the whole country." The team would install one photovoltaic on the roof of the town's post office and one on the roof of the Department of Conservation building. The wind turbine is to be installed near Paterson's Inlet.

Mr Capper said two different types of solar panels would be tested. One was a standard crystalline silicon-based solar electric panel which used direct sunlight to generate electricity. The other uses "thin film technology" (using amorphous silicon), powered by direct as well as indirect light arising from shady weather conditions.

"We believe the amorphous is much better for Stewart Island ... but we want to compare the two." The amorphous thin-film solar panels would be tested on the DOC building.

An LCD screen would be installed in the South Seas Hotel and would show month-to-date and year-to-date outputs from the trial kit.

"Ideally we want to have between six and 12 months worth of data." During the trial period Right House would also investigate the island's potential for hydro and tidal power, as well as the possibility of using the waste heat generated from the existing diesel generators.

"At the moment it's just waste heat and apparently the exhaust heat is 350degC. So there's a lot of energy there. The community needs to decide some use for that." The project model includes retaining diesel generators to use alongside the wind and solar power generators, but powering them with biodiesel, which could be produced in Southland, Mr Capper said.

"There's some opportunities there for the region to be more reliant from their own fuel supplies." As a separate project, Right House and Elemental Energy had agreed to install two hot water heat pumps for the school pool.

Mr Capper said the companies also planned to make monthly trips to the island to run workshops on how residents could improve energy efficiency in their homes.

"We have an ambitious target that we'd like to make every house on the island energy efficient." Mr Littin said making homes energy efficient was probably the most important part of the the project.

"We need to save power before we begin generating power." Elemental Energy would be making the island's power station operations manager Peter Wilson's home energy efficient to illustrate to other residents what could be done.

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