May 2014 News

There are occasionally days when I sit down to write the BEP (Blueskin Energy Project) column and wonder what interesting things I can tell you about the project. I’m reminded of a visit we had in the BRCT office some time ago, when a visitor told us to ‘just get the turbines up and running’. The problem with both that request, and my desire to write about something interesting, is that often the work to build a small wind farm is not interesting to write about and yet is essential to any development of this nature.

What I’m talking about is the ‘back-room’ work that goes on. Forget about going up to check the tower and changing batteries – that’s interesting, and fun, and it is always a pleasure as it involves standing on the top of a windswept hill. No, the back-room stuff is office based, and involves spending a lot of time on the phone or email

Mock up of proposed wind cluster from SH1 PrydeRd smallResource Consent work for example involves the coordination of the professional input of others. There are many individuals involved in preparing different parts of something like a Landscape Assessment. I owe a significant debt of thanks to Luke of BrandAid Design, to Richard Hemi from the surveying department and to Conor Cody at DNV-GL Energy, who have all contributed key parts of the whole over the past few months to build the mock-ups required for our Landscape Assessment (see inset photo: Mock up of the proposed wind cluster on Porteus Hill from SH1). All that work needs to then be fed into an overall report completed by a Landscape Architect who needs to critically assess the information supplied.

Preparation of the investment proposition is also a simple sounding task, but it actually requires some significant expertise. We are very fortunate to have some good financial and wind energy expertise on the board of directors of our company, Blueskin Energy Ltd, and the support of the Akina Foundation (previously the Hikurangi Foundation), which has backed this project with significant and free professional expertise. While some aspects of building the financial case are straightforward (ensuring that we have a skilled team and good advice), other bits require more work. These are things like detailed costings (which are often commercially sensitive) and market arrangements.

The NZ market is not designed to accommodate community scale wind, however the market and regulatory environment is changing in many ways and there are a number of different options available to us for the sale of electricity from the proposed Blueskin wind cluster. Each option involves preparatory work and discussions, and must be evaluated as we try to identify the best arrangement.

Choosing the best turbine for the site is not a simple task of looking through pictures in a catalogue either. The most important thing we need is a comprehensive wind profile, as we want to ensure we choose a turbine model suited to our conditions. But of course, there are confidentiality agreements to be entered into, pricing plans with or without options, insurance, the value of the NZ dollar to consider, and operations and maintenance to arrange.

In, amongst, around, and through all of this, is project planning. There needs to be a critical path provisionally established.  That involves timing the permits, the contracts, the business plan and the investment proposal so everything can happen in a logical order. This all constitutes the back-room work physically located in the BRCT office, but actually involves pulling in expertise, skill and knowledge from both near and far.

Rest assured, there is more than enough work to keep several people fully occupied on this, and at present, too few opportunities to take time out to stand on the wind swept hill-top! Meanwhile, in wider energy matters, BRCT continues to focus attention on: Cosy Homes; Home Performance Assessments; Free Home Energy Advice; Solar Advice and has joined a bid by Ellis Fibre to participate in a contract to deliver targeted insulation retrofits to vulnerable households in the next Warm Up NZ funding round. The back-room can be found in the BRCT office at 1121 Mt Cargill Rd, Waitati, subscribe to our BRCT update (you will be taken to the subscribe page of our 'Blueskin Energy Project', as we are in the process of moving this across to this site) or phone on 4822048.