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Yesterday, representatives of the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust (BRCT) and Our Wind Ltd (Owl), a subsidiary of Christchurch wind-turbine manufacturer Windflow Technology, signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly set up a "wind cluster" to supply electricity for 700 to 1000 houses, generated by three to five community-owned turbines.
BRCT project manager Scott Willis said signing with Owl, whose directors include former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, was an exciting opportunity to break free from the big power companies' "stranglehold".
Primarily driven by a desire to be "sustainable" and environmentally friendly, most local people were also horrified by high power bills they had no control over, he said.
People wanted to become "prosumers" rather than passive consumers of goods and services, he said.
Unlike other countries, New Zealand did not have a regulatory environment favourable to community power projects, so it was a big challenge, Mr Willis said.
The backers aim to have the turbines generating within two years.
The project organisers need to raise about $4 million, confirm a site and obtain resource consent.
A business model was still to be developed but the two parties were likely to set up a separate entity with majority community ownership to oversee the project.
Mr Willis said locals were behind the plan and he did not expect opposition.
He believed it was a very different situation to big power companies seeking resource consent for wind farms, which often faced stiff opposition.
Owl chairman Dr Morgan Williams said electricity market was "niggling at the soul of New Zealand and New Zealanders".