The days of losing power in stormy weather should be a thing of the past for residents living in the upper reaches of the remote Tangahoe Valley east of Hawera.
Lines company Powerco is in the process of installing five stand-alone, battery-powered units that produce electricity using a mix of solar and diesel generator energy.
They will replace the overhead supply in the network trouble spot that is constantly damaged in storms by trees and slips crashing through the lines. At times the destruction has blocked the road for weeks, preventing contractors from reaching downed lines and poles.
But Powerco’s evolving Base Power technology will mitigate those problems.
“We have installed three and the next two will be up and running before winter sets in,” General Manager Business Development, Eric Pellicer, said.
“They are a relatively new development for us and there are now 20 in operation across remote sections of our network. Those customers are impressed with reliability of the units, particularly in storms.”
“We have just finished putting in the third unit for the Hawera Water Ski Club on the shores Lake Rotorangi. It will supply power to their clubrooms and will also power a pump that takes water from the lake for a public toilet block run by the South Taranaki District Council.”
The remaining four units are on farms.
The solar panels charge the storage batteries in each unit with the diesel generator on standby if weather conditions inhibit solar generation. Powerco owns the units and covers the cost of installation. The customer pays a monthly account (similar to current line charges) and for any diesel used. They chose where to source their diesel.
Many parts of the Powerco network covered rugged, remote terrain and were uneconomic to maintain.
“Tangahoe is a perfect example. The line into the valley has been rebuilt twice in the past nine years at substantial cost to service maybe six to seven homes and a woolshed or two. We can never recover that investment so it has to come from somewhere else in our business model. Hence the development of Base Power as an alternative.”
But it was not a quick fix as it entailed considerable consultation with customers, who were often hard to contact in remote areas.
“But we have a requirement and a desire to maintain supply to those customers. When we started with Base Power 10 years ago we had Tangahoe in our sights. We wanted to make sure all the kinks were ironed out before we deployed Base Power to all the customers in the valley,” Pellicer said.