Renewable power trial starts soon

19:44, Mar 25 2014

A $170,000 project to assess whether renewable energy is a good option to power Stewart Island is about to move into the testing phase.

Venture Southland enterprise project manager Robin McNeill, who is spearheading the assessment, said he hoped testing for wind, hydro and solar power would begin soon.

The sites for wind and hydro testing were within Rakiura National Park, which meant concessions from the Department of Conservation were needed.

That process was taking longer than expected, and could push the installation start date into May, but he hoped to begin next month, Mr McNeill said.

After concessions were granted, consent applications would go to Environment Southland for signing off, a process which the regional council told him should be fairly straightforward, he said.

The sites for testing each energy source were determined by studies from Massey and Canterbury universities.


A 30-metre-tall mast to measure wind speed would be installed at Garden Mound, a V-notch weir built to the east of Port William will determine water flow, and a 1-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel would be installed near the power station to measure the potential of solar power generation.

The power station on Stewart Island would monitor power consumption of the village and measure how much power was generated by wind, hydro, and solar in 10-minute segments, Mr McNeill said.

Work would also be done to ensure the grid could sustain any new energy option.

Testing would continue for one year, before which source, if any, could be identified as the best option, Mr McNeill said.

"We will have an indication within about six months, but we need to ensure we have a full set of data."

Establishing a fully working wind turbine, hydro-dam, or solar-power generation system would cost millions, he said.

"There is a possibility none of them will be economically viable."

It was possible a combination of two renewable energy sources would be progressed, but Mr McNeill said it was unlikely the island's current diesel generators could be completely replaced.

"I think diesel generators are here to stay for a bit," he said.

NZ First MP Andrew Williams said he would be "diligently following" the project to ensure it progresses.

"If [NZ First] are in government, we will ensure this is progressed with haste . . . it has gone on too long."

The party would look at securing funding to support the project.

"We are a nation that say we want improvements in renewable energy . . . it's quite hypocritical of New Zealand to have its third-largest island still on diesel generation."

Stewart Island was a "jewel in the crown" of the New Zealand tourism industry, and having clean-green, renewable energy on the island would send a strong message to visitors from overseas, he said.

"The time for delays and dilly-dallying is over . . . I hope my involvement will encourage change."

The Southland Times