Waitati eyed as energy trial zone

Scott Willis
Scott Willis
Blueskin Bay could be poised to become New Zealand's first open air new technology energy laboratory, Waitati Energy Project co-ordinator Scott Willis says.

National and international companies were interested in a ''community-size trial zone'' for their green technologies, Mr Willis said yesterday.

Interest was being assessed, but Mr Willis confirmed companies developing solar, battery, energy monitoring, and even roofing technologies had their eyes on the district just north of Dunedin city.

''We have established a pretty unique energy zone at our end-point on the grid, and there is strong interest in its potential as a proving ground for new ideas.

''We're energy-aware and we've got an energy-literate community that can incorporate new technology and provide good, educated feedback about it.

''There are a lot of good reasons why we could be the open air laboratory that tests the green technologies that could benefit communities everywhere.''

The interest follows the project's drive to promote energy efficiency and the development of an integrated energy community.

It has spearheaded an insulation retrofit programme and continues to work to secure a community-owned wind turbine to generate between 750kW and 850kW of electricity.

It has also promoted the value of generation from small wind turbines, such as Powerhouse Wind's Thinair turbine, and the use of solar installations and energy-efficient design.

The turbine was the Blueskin Resilent Communities Trust's flagship project and further public consultation - pending Energy Efficiency and Conservation funding - talks with potential partners, and work on a business model would continue this year.

Mr Willis would also spend the next few months assessing what the green technology companies with ''high interest'' could offer the energy-aware community, he said.

He anticipated they would offer their products at discounted rates in return for ''real-life and extremely valuable'' consumer feedback from a community-size trial zone.

''The really exciting thing is that this pivots off the turbine project and all the other work around it.

And that's work that's been done by the community.''

- stu.oldham@odt.co.nz

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