September 2013 News

Despite a passion for building energy resilience in Blueskin, I must admit to experiencing a wonderfully calm and stress-free afternoon/evening on 10th of September during the power outage. We had a wonderful family dinner by candlelight, with fires flickering gently, and no radio or noise bar a call on the old dial phone. Doing dishes later, I was transported back to another very convivial time, when we lived in France, among good friends who practiced simplicity, taught us the language, played music, told stories and lived well. Ah the nostalgia!

2013 09 01 12.08.00 Di Lucas Paul MichaelMeanwhile, some terrific winds blew, and our visitors up to the site this month were Di Lucas and Paul Michael from Lucas Associates (see inset photo). We recorded peak wind speed at 35/s (126 km/hr) on Porteous Hill. The peak happened at 15:20 on the 10th and in the space of 10 minutes went right through the power curve and out the top, so turbine shut-down, (if they were there) would have occurred. Generation would have kicked in again at about 17:40 that evening (if the grid was working).

The power outage was caused by some flying bluegum bark or branch or something creating a 5-10 amp short-out on the 33kV line south of Waikouaiti. Whatever it was smouldered, then caused a fire, damaging the wooden power pole, which broke and came down. The OtagoNet team had a difficult time getting a new concrete pole up amongst live high voltage wires and lightening, but eventually, early in the morning of the 11th, electricity was restored.

Our local electricity network will receive significant upgrades over next few years. First up is connection to the 110kV Transpower line from Halfway Bush, feeding directly into a new Waitati substation, all of which is now in progress (early stages). This will mean that problems further up the line will no longer affect us in the same way, and it will also mean that some inefficient lines will be replaced with simpler, more direct transmission. While OtagoNet haven’t yet settled on a site for a new substation, they are committed to replacing the old flood prone substation (identified as a risk in our Climate Change report) at 8 Killarney Street, Waitati. Added to better grid security, we’ve had discussions about connecting the proposed wind cluster on Porteous Hill, which will require a short length of new transmission line to connect. That way we’ll get more robust grid connection and valuable local generation all within the Waitati substation zone servicing 1000 households from Long Beach to Merton/Waikouaiti.

Meanwhile BRCT is in negotiation with the Porteous site landowners currently to ensure the best results for them and the whole community in the lease to allow generation to be built on Porteous Hill. Both parties are investing time and money in the negotiation and we hope to reach agreement soon. In solar news and as merely a facilitator for solar in Blueskin, we don’t have all the numbers, but we are aware of one new installation happening now and more in the pipeline. As the days get longer, we anticipate more getting on the solar train. Whether you enjoyed the brief holiday from everything electric on the 10th or suffered because of it, one thing it did do was remind us all of how we take a secure supply of electricity for granted. It’s also a nice little reminder of why we began this journey towards greater local energy security way back in 2006.

Visit us in the office at 1121 Mt Cargill Rd, Waitati. Telephone enquiries can be made on 4822048 and for any information about solar email

By Scott Willis