Base Power energising South Pacific school

A tiny school on an isolated island in the South Pacific Ocean is using New Zealand-made remote power supply, Base Power, to provide the constant electricity it needs.

With 10 students, Pitt Island School is the hub of the island community of 21 households, approximately 23km south of Chatham Island.

Principal Wendy Bishell says that with no electricity network on Pitt Island, the school had been using some solar panels and a generator to charge batteries, which had proved unreliable over time and was costing about $13,000 a year in diesel.

“The old system interfered every day with students learning and our administrator’s computer, as it would run out of power twice a day. This meant having to turn on the noisy generator.

“We also would run out of power during the night, which played havoc with the freezer, oven use and heating up the water,” Ms Bishell says.

That was until Marton-based The Downs Group supplied and installed a Base Power remote area power supply (RAPS) at the Pitt Island School.

Using 40 solar panels and 30 four kilowatt hours of battery storage, the Base Power unit captures the sun’s energy and can produce up to nine kilowatts of electricity per hour. Any excess energy produced is stored in the unit’s battery bank and can be used when required later. The system also includes an automatic back-up generator, which can be used during times of low sunlight or high demand.

Ms Bishell says a reliable energy supply is vital for modern, internet-based learning, and the school’s students are benefitting from Base Power’s constant flow of electricity.

“Most of our seniors rely on the internet and the use of Google Docs for their learning. Due to being so isolated, we need to keep regular contact with schools in New Zealand, sharing resources, keeping up with new pedagogy and training – enabling us to be globally connected as set out in our school charter.

“Everything now works all the time. I have only heard the generator once and we have not had to add any diesel yet. We are also looking into installing heat pumps into our classroom, which was a far-off dream before.”

Base Power Business Manager Jayson Vinsen says Base Power is designed especially for remote communities as an alternative to traditional power poles and lines.

“This really shows the ability and flexibility of Base Power to work in remote locations, such as Pacific Island locations, and make a real difference to both the community and the environment.”

He says to protect the Base Power unit in the island’s harsh, coastal conditions, the unit’s casing had been custom made from marine grade stainless steel and with special air filters to provide extra protection against salt spray.

Designed by New Zealand’s second largest electricity utility, Powerco, Base Power has been developed and tested by skilled research and development engineers and proven to offer a reliable and safe power supply.