Waitati seeks to harness wind

Waitati wind: Scott Willis braves the elements just below a proposed wind generation site...
Waitati wind: Scott Willis braves the elements just below a proposed wind generation site overlooking Blueskin Bay. Photo by Dan Hutchinson
A proposal for a community-owned wind turbine above Blueskin Bay could become a model for other communities.

In just over two months, the Blueskin Bay Energy Trust will be asking about 1000 home-owners for their support for a wind power generator.

Trust manager Scott Willis said they had been collecting data from the site for a year and had confirmed the reliability of the wind in the area.

"We have a fantastic site in terms of roads and connecting to the grid and where people want it and in terms of the local substation. All these things are very, very good."

He said cost was not likely to be the biggest problem but they would prefer the majority of investment to come from the community.

"If 70% of people invested $6000 each, we would not need to borrow anything and we have already been contacted by people wanting to invest in it."

He said the project would generate 5.2 gigawatt hours of energy each year, which was not quite the amount already used by the community.

Electricity will be sold to the national grid so residents did not have to change electricity suppliers.

"The desire is to build greater energy resilience and one way is to build generation closer to consumers and give us control over the value of that generation.

"We will take a community dividend and a shareholder dividend and invest back into community energy initiatives," Mr Willis said.

That could include subsidies on solar hot water heating for Blueskin Bay households and small micro-generation wind machines on individual properties.

Central Otago power generator Pioneer Generation has just opened a wind farm at Mt Stuart near Waitahuna, and chief executive Fraser Jonker said it was an "absolutely ideal" time for smaller wind projects.

He said the Government's policy statement on renewable energy was designed around smaller community-embedded generation and they would "definitely" be building more wind farms.

He said smaller projects helped line companies and TransPower delay investment in infrastructure.


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