Wind may whistle in backup power

17:00, Aug 01 2014

Wellington's infamous wind could prove to be a lifeline in the event of a big earthquake.

A large shake is forecast to knock out power to homes and institutions, such as hospitals and schools, for weeks.

But Victoria University researcher Daniel Akinyele would like to see Wellington's homes self-sufficient from the grid in a disaster, by having their own wind turbines and solar power.

"The impact could be much less severe," the PhD scholarship student said.

At present, houses and businesses harnessing solar or wind energy have their electricity generation shut down when cut off from the main grid, as was likely to happen in a quake. But Akinyele envisages a system that would allow things to keep running if needed.

While growing numbers of homes in Wellington are installing solar panels, he wants residents to also embrace the city's unique resource - gale-force winds.

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"Without a doubt, wind energy is more abundant in this part of the world.

"Making use of wind energy is often the best solution," he said.

As part of his research, under supervisor Ramesh Rayudu, Nigerian-born Akinyele interviewed Wellingtonians to gauge their appetite for home turbines.

"A lot of people love the idea. "They want it in their backyard."

But with small turbines costing $5000 to $30,000, it is a big disincentive for many. People also faced noise or Resource Management Act compliance concerns about installing them, he said.

He hoped to iron out such issues through his research.

Household renewable energy systems could add up quite significantly on a national level, so high numbers of people installing wind systems, as well as solar ones, would help the Government meet its goal of 90 per cent green electricity generation by 2025, Akinyele said.

Government subsidies would be an incentive to meet this goal as well as developing disaster preparedness. "Otherwise, it will only be people who are very interested in renewable-energy technology that will invest."

Small-scale power generation could also play a critical role in developing countries such as Nigeria, he said.

The Dominion Post