Future looking sunny for Waitati initiative

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei (left), Roslyn McLean (11), James Marshall (8) and Blueskin...
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei (left), Roslyn McLean (11), James Marshall (8) and Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust manager Scott Willis flick a switch (made from cake) to mark the start of power generation from solar panels installed at the trust's office at Waitati School. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
One ''guest'' was conspicuously absent at an event marking the start of power generation for a Waitati community solar project on Saturday.

A ''symbolic switch'' made from cake was flicked at the event to mark the start of generation from solar panels installed on the roof of the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust's office, which is on the Waitati School grounds.

A small group of Waitati residents were on hand, but after weeks of blue skies, the sun failed to show up.

Trust manager Scott Willis said it had envisaged installing solar panels ever since moving its office into what used to be Waitati school dental clinic.

''We moved here in 2011 and the first thing we saw was a beautiful roof facing north - perfect for the sun.''

However, a difficult regulatory environment for solar meant it they had not been installed until now. There had been a ''radical drop'' in the price of solar generation and through substantial support from people in the industry and community, with $2000 raised on PledgeMe.

The installation meant the office was ''energy positive'' - meaning more power was produced than consumed - and it was hoped it would be a step towards Waitati becoming an ''energy positive'' community.

Excess power from the solar panels was used to power the schoolGreen Party co-leader and Waitati local Metiria Turei, who flicked the symbolic switch, said it was a great community initiative.

''The Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust is ...an extraordinary organisation for building community community resilience in different kinds of ways,'' Ms Turei said.

She said the Green Party had launched a policy to set aside $20 million to go towards solar panels for schools.

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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