Blueskin Energy Project and Waitati Energy Project Column

Blueskin Energy Project and Waitati Energy Project Column

This page is a collection of WEP/BEP monthly Columns, most recently published first, as submitted to the Blueskin News. The column provides the public face to WEP/BEP action locally and is a partial log of activities. If you prefer to read the original published column, go to the Blueskin News where you'll find not only the original column but also the extra bits - sometimes photos, sometimes just the various other columns published in the same edition.


Some earlier material can be found at the Dunedin Environment Centre Trust website, alternatively click on the links provided below.

BEP Columns 2011

WEP Columns 2009

WEP Columns 2008

WEP Columns 2007


November 2012, BEP

This month there are three important community meetings in three different Blueskin settlements, to report on the developments in the Blueskin wind cluster project and to get more feedback on the project. The hope is that by bringing a meeting to ‘a place near you’  people will be able to come along and contribute thoughts and ideas, and get an update from the horse’s mouth, as it were. Catch up on where it’s at on:
•    Thursday, 15th Nov. in Long Beach Hall, 7 – 9pm
•    Friday, 16th Nov. in Warrington Hall, 7 – 9pm
•    Monday, 19th Nov. in Waitati Hall, 7 – 9pm.

Over Labour weekend our family attended a big family reunion in Roxburgh –  it was 150 years since my great great grandfather Andrew Young along with 3 others staked a claim on the Teviot river. I took the opportunity to check out again the small power schemes in the area owned by Pioneer Generation, and Jason from Pioneer (who was on call for the weekend) took a few of us to see the hydro stations on the Teviot and explained the long history of small scale local energy innovation. Some of us also went out to Horseshoe Bend, where Pioneer’s first wind development is (3 turbines), and to Mt Stuart (9 turbines) near Waitahuna which was opened earlier this year. Both the hydro and wind turbines were well served, as you can imagine, by the wild Labour weekend weather of wind and water. A field trip to Mt Stuart for those interested in the possibilities of local renewable generation is something we’ll be putting together this month.

Horseshoe Bend at Labour Weekend

The Energy Advice trial (a partnership between the University of Otago’s Energy Cultures Team and the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust) will end this month, however for the first three weeks of November you can still get telephone advice each Mon and Tues by phone on 4822207. We are now exploring promising avenues to build a more durable community service, shaped on what we’ve learned best suits the community and gets results for home owners. Energy Advice Project Manager Chris Freear is also working to bring together a “Cosy Home Symposium” in Dunedin in 2013 to bring together the different agencies and organisations who want to work on fuel poverty issues and develop a single vision for Dunedin.

BRCT capacity is directed at present towards the Blueskin wind cluster project, Energy Advice and the solar project – that together form the suite of generation and consumer initiatives that is the Blueskin Energy Project.

Visit us at:, or at the office at 1121 Mt Cargill Rd, Waitati (on Waitati School grounds). Telephone enquiries can be made on 4822048  (the Wind Cluster) and 4822207 (Energy Advice) and for more information about the solar project email Chris Le Breton at


October 2012, BEP

Home Energy Audits (free, until we reach capacity limit) for Blueskin residents are going very well. To sign up for an audit email You can also get quality Energy Advice each Mon and Tues by phone on 4822207. This is a team effort from BRCT and the Energy Cultures team at the University of Otago, with Chris Freear representing Blueskin. The solar project led by Chris Le Breton is making good progress as reported in the ‘solar tube’. These are both wonderfully immediate parts of the larger energy project to build greater energy resilence for Blueskin and to provide as many opportunities as possible for people to be involved and take action.

The wind cluster project currently consumes most of our time which is not surprising for a project that aims to generate electricity equivalent to the annual demand of 1000 Blueskin households. I may be repeating myself, but what is foremost in our minds is to find a way of ensuring that the project achieves an appropriate return for the communities involved because that will make other energy saving projects (eg solar, wood-lots, etc) possible. We are seeking expert advice on what will provide that outcome and allow all the local investment we anticipate (we’ve received a number of enquiries). The fundamental issues relating to a wind cluster – how much wind is there - remain crucial.  It is very exciting that Garrad Hassan (NZ’s and the world’s largest renewable energy consultancy) in addition to providing an expert opinion on existing wind data is providing use of a 30 metre wind measuring mast (supplied by Trustpower) which will give the type of data we will need should we seek additional financing. Once it is re-rigged and delivered we’ll need a number of hands on deck to lift it into place, so please get in touch with me if you want to be involved.

Chris Le Breton and a mysterious engineer type look inside the control box for gremlins.

The technical issues relating to wind testing, appropriateness of turbine model, other infrastructural requirements, etc are only part of the picture but require significant work and without the assistance of Garrad Hassan, Energy3, WindFlow Technology, PowerNet, Pioneer Generation and all the people in the community who help fix the little problems that occur from time to time, even this work would be an enormous challenge. A project of this nature also requires legal work, and it has been fascinating, and a little daunting, learning about the different bits of legal assistance we will need if the project gets the final big tick. On the planning side we’ve benefitted from some early work by professional planners and are very lucky to have so many examples and people willing to share their experiences. The refined technical appraisal is the next significant area of work as it makes appropriate decisions possible. Community meetings to go over all these issues and more have been scheduled for mid November. They are:

•    Long Beach Hall: Thursday 15th November, 7-9pm
•    Warrington Hall: Friday 16th November, 7-9pm
•    Waitati Hall: Monday 19th November, 7-9pm

Please put these dates in your diary! Visit us at: , or at the office at 1121 Mt Cargill Rd, Waitati (on Waitati School grounds – after 3pm please). Telephone enquiries can be made on 4822048  (the Wind Cluster) and 4822207 (Energy Advice).


September 2012, BEP

Home Energy Advice (a partnership between BRCT & Otago University’s Energy Cultures Team) is available by telephone each Mon and Tues, call 4822207 and through free home energy audits run by Chris Freear. To register for an energy audit visit: or call the advice line. Do you want to reduce energy bills and make your home warmer and healthier? An Energy Audit with advice designed for your personal situation will go along way to achieving those goals.

The Solar Project, which began as a proposal to establish a ‘Solar Buyers Syndicate’ is now in the spotlight as well. Chris Le Breton is volunteering in the BRCT office one day a week to develop the Solar Project an ensure a good fit between community need and solar opportunity. Make sure if you’re calling the BRCT office for Energy Advice or Solar information to specify which Chris you want to talk to – ‘Imported Chris’ or ‘Kiwi Chris’.

In recent wind cluster developments, our core partner the Hikurangi Foundation with whom we're working very closely has been helping secure top quality pro-bono support. Alongside their own expertise, Hikurangi have brokered very productive talks with Russel McVeigh (legal experts), GL Garrad Hassan (technical experts) and Woodward Investment Partners (Financing and Investment expertise), with returns in the technical area already. The latest Wind Resource Assessment has already been completed by WindFlow Technology Limited and Garrad Hassan (NZ’s world’s largest renewable energy consultancy) is now working on an independent review. Both are already recommending we move to the next stage in measurement, which is a higher wind measurement tower to confirm the synthesised data (i.e. what wind speeds are estimated at hub-height) and we’re working to this end in parallel. There have also been some discussions about university supported Sodar wind appraisal, which is a technique that measures wind speed using sound waves.


Technical appraisal is crucial, but only part of the picture. To provide a secure investment proposal and to deliver social good outcomes, we also need to reduce the risk of the project. One of the key ways of doing this as community developers of a small-scale generation project will be to establish a long-term electricity supply contract. By being grid-connected we will be required to enter into market arrangements. We have begun exploring options here in discussions with the DCC and Port Otago Ltd, both of whom are significant electricity consumers. Grid-connection means when the wind does not blow we will need the back-up of the grid with its battery bank of hydro storage. Meanwhile, the community feedback events have been delayed while technical analysis and financial modelling in particular are complete. You can find out more by visiting us at: Telephone enquiries can be made on 4822048  (the Wind Cluster) and 4822207 (Energy Advice).


August 2012, BEP

Thank you to all who have brought important energy issues to the fore recently – what better way to pass winter? In addition to opinion, we’ll be bringing some assistance to Blueskin households who aim to make improvements in their home energy situation over the next few months (see below). The Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust & Otago University’s Energy Cultures Team have teamed up to deliver expert energy advice and study how households respond to advice. We want to help people to make changes to their homes and practices for warmer, drier homes and/or improved energy efficiency, and to evaluate the effectiveness of energy advice. Several different approaches will be trialled including: home audits, information evenings and a telephone help line. If you’re in Long Beach, Purakaunui, Osborne, Waitati or Warrington, you may be able to secure an energy audit and will be able to get telephone advice (see below). The Energy Cultures team will be surveying people to assess the effectiveness of the different approaches. The comparison will look at things like the differences in energy related changes, energy literacy, and energy networking. If you wish to know more about the trial and to register your interest visit us at: or telephone the energy advice hotline on: 4822207 (Mon and Tues).

We now have an updated wind resource assessment from the Porteous Hill monitored site and independent experts who are analysing that information to tell us what is possible given the duration and strength of the wind. That will lead to a discussion about what turbines are most appropriate for those conditions, though we’re modelling the Windflow 500 model. Then we need to crunch the money numbers to see if they make sense. Given the electricity generated, life of the turbine, capital cost and the income likely to be generated we need to determine if this is a goer and under what conditions. We’re wanting to minimise the risk of any such scheme so a lot of effort is going into identifying ways of achieving that end, or finding possible partners that could lower or mitigate any inherent risks.  That’s never easy as there are always advantages and disadvantages to every possibility, but they all need to be carefully considered. Once all that information is collated it will be time for Hall meetings around the different Blueskin communities again to see if our proposal works for you. We’re currently targeting the end of September for those meetings, but the exact timing may depend on when reports we have commissioned become available.

It’s probably important to mention that a wind turbine cluster, should it come to pass, is really only another step along the way to making our communities resilient, but it is an important one. If it can be made to occur it has the potential to provide money to support the development of other energy centred projects in the area like solar, water, steam, household wind generation, smart metres …the list is endless.  The possibilities are exciting and ever changing as new options and new technologies become available. At the Hall meetings later in the year we’ll try to outline some of those possibilities.

For Energy Advice call 4822207 (Mon/Tues), by email or visit the website For more information about the wind cluster project contact Scott on 4822048 or by email at: or visit the website.


July 2012, BEP

I fell in love on Global Wind Day (15th June) with nine 850kWh wind turbines, cloaked mist on the summit of Mt Stuart, the site of Pioneer Generation’s newest renewable generation project. What a great community opening it was, with Metiria Turei, Eion Edgar, Allan Kane and farmer/landowner Rob Hewett all adding entertaining support to Pioneers Fraser Jonker’s opening address, amidst sausages, Waitahuna school artwork, cups of tea and coffee. Our small Blueskin team headed up into the snow and stood awed under the quiet majesty of these animated objects, quietly powering about 3000 local households – embedded generation feeding the local network.

Mt Stuart: a multifunctional landscape!


What a lot has happened in June, and it is all working up to an exciting next six months for BEP. We’re teaming up with the Energy Cultures Team at the University of Otago to conduct a small Community Energy Advice trial between July – Nov 2012. In Blueskin (Long Beach, Purakaunui, Osborne, Waitati, Evansdale, Warrington), this will mean a small number of home energy assessments and a telephone advice service. Sign up to the BEP Update by emailing me if you want to be kept in the loop. As more of us understand the simple steps we can take in our own homes, get access to existing subsidies, etc, and begin budgeting for the more complex solutions, we’ll all increase our energy awareness and be able to share skills and knowledge with neighbours and friends, and build greater resilience.

Last month I hinted at more on financial side of the wind cluster. An economic site is determined by not only capacity factor – which is a crude measure of wind resource – but also other factors including the cost of development, on going maintenance, etc. All our analysis reveals that the returns we expect to get from investing in the wind cluster are in line with other wind developments in other parts of NZ, modelled here using the WindFlow 500 turbine. There’s unlikely to be any immediate benefit in terms of your electricity price at this stage, but there’ll be investment returns and wider community returns, once the wind cluster is operational.
Once we’ve held our next set of important community meetings in September (look out for them) we’ll be in a position to decide on proceeding with establishing the business entity. The business entity, when established will be responsible for driving the project from that point on, i.e. securing legal contracts, devising investment options, raising finance, preparing the resource consent, and building the wind cluster. Until then we’re commissioning a set of updated wind resource assessments and getting professional assistance with detailed financial modelling, while exploring the best options for selling the approximately 5.2 GW/hours of annual electricity production, expected from 4 WindFlow 500 turbines.

It was wonderful to see the great community support evident at the launch of the small Mt Stuart wind farm at Waitahuna – our project is smaller again, but what Pioneer have done is not only develop small wind technical skills. They’ve also demonstrated the economic viability of small wind and how that in turn benefits community as well.

The website is where you’ll find fresh information as it comes to hand, or contact Scott on 4822048 or by email


June 2012, BEP

Keeping warm and healthy as the cold bites is not always simple, especially if a household is in economic stress. Having good, unbiased information is an important first step in making sound choices, however. Thanks to a new contract with the Energy Culture’s team at the University of Otago, we’ll begin work in June on a Community Energy Advice trial, so keep your eyes on the Blueskin News and subscribe to the email to stay informed. This is about making houses warmer, healthier and more energy efficient.

This month is about wind generation and technology. All wind turbines, whether small household turbines or larger community scale turbines need to be suited to site to be effective. Wind turbines usually operate 75-90% of the time, but not at full capacity (wind is not constant). They also have an optimal operating range – they only produce electricity once wind gets to a certain speed and cut out when it gets too great. Too many days of high winds for a low range turbine will wear things out (like using a Honda Civic to tow trailer loads of gravel each day), and likewise, too many days of low wind for a high range turbine will under-utilise it (like owning a four-wheel drive to go to the supermarket). The trick is to find the right balance. However, now that we’re experiencing wilder weather thanks to a changing climate, a greater degree of unpredictability (or ‘risk’) has entered the equation. No one knows how to model for climate change within the financial model of a wind cluster. The approach we’re taking with the Blueskin wind cluster is to seek a slightly over-engineered turbine (the Christchurch made ‘Windflow 500’) for the site, in order to contain the risk of wilder weather and ensure low maintenance costs. Certainly, everyone will understand that when you build ‘above spec’, it costs more, even when using locally built machines. However seldom do people or even professional industry developers give enough weight to the risk of building just enough to meet specifications, often to their regret. We can avoid spending generation income on turbine repairs, or having generation down for maintenance with the right choice of turbine.

Next comes the price we get for our generation – because we will be constrained to sell into the market. This is where a community scale project has the advantage over household scale generation: we gain bargaining power. Early bargaining discussion has begun already and once we know for sure the realistic price we can get for the generation, we add the robust figures to the spreadsheet, sign agreements, seek resource consent, raise capital, and assuming the Blueskin community still wants it, begin construction. That only sounds so simple because I’ve avoided some of the detail. Feel free to get in touch if you want to know more.

The website is where you’ll find fresh information as it comes to hand, and don’t forget to complete the Blueskin Bay Energy Survey received either in your mailboxes or via the BEP Update.

Contact Scott on 4822048 or by email


May 2012, BEP

Thanks to Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust trustees and friends, if you’re in the Blueskin area you will have received the latest BEP pamphlet update on the energy project. I’m immensely grateful for all the help we’ve received to build rich participation in this project and make it a true community action. My own contributions have been severely reduced this past month, thanks to a painful ‘autumn hand’ experience. (For non-health professionals ‘autumn-hand’ refers to the type of hand accident that commonly occurs in autumn during wood-splitting). Clever surgery means I still have most of my thumb, but I still have a fair bit of firewood to split and get under shelter.

Firewood, oil, coal or electricity: these are the ways we heat our homes in cold weather. Using electricity for heat is inefficient and fossil fuel use is leading to instability in the climate and pollution. Even wood, while without all the nasty volatiles of coal, can contribute to lowered air quality when burned. However wood is still an optimal heating fuel, particularly when well seasoned, and increasing its use will make use of local resources – especially if we develop local woodlots – and cut electricity use (which is only between 63-75% renewable at present), all while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Why this focus on heating? Well, I assume you are already working on making your houses as energy efficient as possible with winter on the way and energy prices (electricity, oil) rising. The next step in making your household healthier, more cost effective and comfortable is heating. Rationally we’d make our homes energy efficient, then ensure we have clean heating. I know that’s not how it always works...

Very soon we expect the DCC to launch an ‘Eco-Housing Targetted Rate’ initiative to support further insulation installation and clean-heating installation. BRCT is aiming to develop an information and advice support package to accompany that initiative, and make it accessible, particularly to residents in cold unhealthy houses. All this is part of our effort to develop a Community Energy Advice service (incorporating renewable generation of course). As part of that there’ll be home energy audits, telephone advice and more, to help people take action within their budget.

Meanwhile on the wind cluster front we’re working on setting up a potential ‘power purchase agreement’ – a necessary component under NZ electricity regulations and one that, if successfully concluded, will ensure economic viability for the project straight-up. We’re also doing some background work on ownership structures for the wind cluster so that in the public meetings later this year we can lay out the choices based not only on community preferences but also on cost and suitability for purpose. Wind testing continues to reveal good results and despite my little mishap, our work programme is more or less on track. For more information contact Scott on 4822048 or by email .
Online information can be found at:


April 2012, BEP

The Blueskin Energy Project (BEP) is about successfully developing a Blueskin Wind Cluster to establish renewable electricity generation feeding into the local Waitati sub-station (supplying Long Beach, Purakaunui, Osborne, The Gums, Waitati, Evansdale and Warrington, at a minimum).

BEP is not only about electricity generation. Actually the whole thing was kicked off in 2007 with an ambition for wind power, but with a goal of making homes warmer, and more efficient and giving residents greater control over their energy use. So while there’s a great deal of work on the wind cluster going on (business model development mainly), that doesn’t mean the other objectives have disappeared. This month’s column therefore is devoted to insulation – as the days begin to cool off even more.

Household insulation is often under-appreciated because there’s no visible return, but it is also almost unique among home investments you could make by being able to return immediate financial and health value. All of us spend money keeping our houses and families warm, whether it be on wood, electricity or even diesel and coal. All off us know too that cold damp houses create high energy costs and poor health. Insulation can cut costs significantly and improve health dramatically, so much so that even within a year you may have covered the ‘extra’ cost of insulation through cheaper heating bills improving health. But there’s a significant difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’.

Lets look at ‘Doing’. You won’t get our 2009 subsidy offer of 80% again soon, but what you can get now are:
1.    The Warm Up New Zealand Scheme, offering $1,300 (or 33%) towards the cost of ceiling and under floor insulation if you are on a general income or up to 60% if you have a Community Services Card. Phone 0800 749 782.
2.    The DCC’s ‘Healthy Homes Grant’, which is additional to the WUNZ scheme and prioritises households with community services cards who are high users of the health system. If you are eligible, costs for insulation can be negligible. Contact Lauren McDonald at the Otago Regional Council on 03 470 7433.
3.    Another DCC initiative called the Eco Housing Retrofit Scheme is in development to facilitate access to insulation retrofits.
Subsidies won’t last forever, so there’s no point hanging out in the cold waiting for a better deal. There are now many insulation providers out there and it can be a minefield choosing the best, both in terms of installer and insulation product. Asking questions like “what is the performance guarantee? (how long will it keep its ‘R’ value?)”, and “what happens to the product if I get a leak in my roof?” can be a good start to choosing which provider. We’re still looking to develop our community energy advice alongside the wind project, but more on all this next month. Contact Scott on 4822048 or by email . Online information can be found at Blueskin Power.


March 2012, BEP

Electricity prices, the government predicts, will increase at 1% greater than the rate of inflation for the next 18 years. A number of infrastructural, economic and legislative changes underway right now ensure this is very likely a conservative estimate. Will a local wind cluster reduce power prices? BRCT, which provides governance for the Blueskin Energy Project, is trying its best to find a way to reduce electricity prices via the wind cluster project. That's not as simple as it sounds, under the current legislation. Other desired outcomes include action on climate change (renewable generation), greater energy resilience (generation close to consumers), and social and financial benefits for Blueskin residents (creation of a ‘social enterprise'). The best proposal, to best meet all the goals stated above, will be part of our community meetings later this year, for discussion and improvement.

BRCT trustees have been assisting the progress on the wind cluster project most recently in informal meetings with the Dunedin City Council. With the development of a city wide DCC ‘Energy Strategy' there seems to be even greater alignment between city ambitions and Blueskin ambitions. This increasing alignment may provide the key to unlock New Zealand's first community owned and managed wind cluster.

Meanwhile, in researching business model, we've learnt more about Australia's first community wind cluster (Hepburn Wind) which, after only six months of operation is already delivering funding to the Hepburn ‘Community Sustainability Fund'. Similarly, we've learnt of a UK example from Malcolm McCulloch of West Oxford, who visited recently. There, a small diverse community the scale of Blueskin has developed renewable generation from solar photovoltaic panels on large rooves. They are providing an environmental dividend (carbon credits), a social dividend (sustainability initiatives in the community) and a financial dividend (a return on investment) from that development. They have also benefited from a feed-in tariff and government grants, but they were disadvantaged by high infrastructure costs (PV was 10 times the price when they set it up) at the beginning as well.

Finally, with generous support from our partners the Otago Energy Research Centre I was able to attend a "Developing Effective [community energy] Advisors Workshop" in Wellington recently, put on by the Community Energy Network (CEN). There was an impressive group gathered to support delivery of ‘public good' energy information and advice (i.e. non-commercial information) and plenty of information about what works best. The CEN is seeking greater capacity to provide a ‘hub' service to groups providing community energy services around the country. BRCT is aiming to develop this service locally out of the BRCT community office to add to the Blueskin Energy Project and build energy efficiency and reduce household energy demand while maintaining a healthy environment, in addition to also developing our own renewable generation. Oh, and some great tips from the people at the Citizen's Advice Bureau this month!
Telephone Scott on 4822048.


February 2012, BEP

As I write, Meridian has announced abandoning its $2 billion ‘Project Hayes’ proposal (a 176-turbine, 633-megawatt wind farm in Central). That is somewhat of a different scale to our 4-turbine, 2-megawatt Blueskin project, and the project trajectory could hardly be more dissimilar. On one side is one of New Zealand’s largest electricity producer/retailers (or ‘Gentailer’), on the other is a community initiative seeking greater energy security for the local community. Eric Pyle, head of NZ Wind Energy Association argues that this decision demonstrates the wind industry is “learning more about the best locations” and I think it also demonstrates that the Business As Usual model of large-scale development is no longer an uncomplicated model in New Zealand. That impression was reinforced when I caught up with Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes on his way down to the “Keep the Coal In the Hole Festival”. Gareth pointed out also that the Meridian project and the Blueskin project are so different – one is a top-down Think Big project – the way electricity has been ‘done’ in New Zealand since the 1930’s, while our Blueskin project is bottom-up, with everyone having a stake and contributing. If we can achieve projects like the Blueskin wind cluster he argued, then we can “create a robust grid, with less loss and more popular support”.  Gareth was very clear that we need renewable energy if we are to avert climate crisis and wants to see in the future a “more friendly legislative regime for community projects, and a grid which is designed to encompass decentralised community projects so we can have a network which is resilient in the face of future challenges”.

Meanwhile, our project is moving forward. I had a range of very productive meetings in Wellington just prior to the Christmas holidays and found a wide range of support even from within government agencies (though that’s not followed up with much supportive policy at present). We had also hoped to have our ‘Community Engagement’ report complete by the end of last year, however due mainly to staffing changes at EECA there has been a delay, and we’re only now able to begin finalising the report. Following a meeting at the Electricity Authority I now have some work to do assessing whether we may have a viable project to offer a retail option for Blueskin (coupled with generation), and thus potentially secure more complete control, which of course will be part of further community discussions as we seek further opinion on the project.

Finally, while sad to see the Clarke family and the Robinson’s leave us for Nelson I’m delighted to be able to welcome Chris Freear and Linda Van Barneveld to Blueskin. Chris is Project Manager for Our Wind Limited (remember the agreement signed between OWL and BRCT almost a year ago?) and they have just purchased a property in Waitati.


December 2011, BEP

A four turbine wind-cluster located at Porteous Hill above Warrington is closer to being confirmed as viable, with wind measurements and modelling demonstrating sufficient wind. Financial viability however rests not just on wind quality, but also on community support and on ensuring a power purchase agreement. By now many Blueskin residents have attended an Open Day, completed the survey or accessed information about the project from the website, or just followed it in the media. Don’t worry if that despite all, this project is still new to you. There is no intention to move into the full development pathway until a few more questions have been answered. They are:
1. Are Blueskin residents still strongly supportive?
2. What level of local investment is available?
3. Are we able to secure a good power purchase agreement?
Now, of course, everyone is looking forward to Christmas and the holidays, however it is also a good moment to get more details. If you want someone to come and explain the proposal and you live in the Purakaunui, Long Beach, Osbourne area, phone Ross Johnston on 4821029 or email him at and leave your contact details. If you live in the Waitati – Warrington area phone me on 4822048 or email and leave contact details. By mid 2012 BRCT will be in a position to assess community support and will then be able to make a decision on preparing a Resource Consent application, and there’ll be public meetings about all this before then.

An important DCC document that will affect you and our community is out now. Called the ‘draft Spatial Plan’ it is a geographical perspective on how our communities can meet the needs of current and future generations. In my opinion, and having had input at an early stage of the plan’s development, this is a very good document. You can be assured that plenty of people with an interest in our landscape will be submitting on the spatial plan – but the DCC will value hearing from residents and not just property developers. BEP perspectives will be incorporated into the BRCT submission, which will be submitted by the new deadline of 13 January 2012. As a guide to how the DCC is incorporating broad perspectives in the spatial plan, you will see reference to the ‘Waitati Energy Project’ (now of course we’re ‘BlueskinEP’). In this Peak Oil period it is crucial that our local authority does plan for the whole city’s energy needs – and the plan offers a start. Among other things, the plan will help shape the District Plan (covers land-use/planning issues), the transport strategy and the economic development strategy, and will have an effect on community initiatives. It is quite likely that this plan will give greater leverage to community initiatives that are delivering results for local communities, particularly if residents submit their support.

For more information look in the BRCT column and contact me (4822048) if you have any burning concern/positive comment and I’ll see if it can be incorporated. Have a lovely big fat summer break, and a low carbon holiday!


November 2011, BEP

Open Days and Survey Report
There is far too much to report from the very rewarding Open Days in September and the ongoing Online Survey in this short column. However there is space for a succinct ‘taste’ and I can also let you know that a draft 100+ page report has been delivered to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, detailing the progress to date. Waitati, both in the Open Days and the Survey, is the most highly represented community in the Blueskin Energy Project responses – due, I’m sure, to being the birthplace of the project. We’d love to see more people from Long Beach, Purakaunui, The Gap, Osborne, Evansdale and Warrington filling in the survey – as well as any in Seacliff or Karitane or even further afield. The anticipated cut-off date for the survey is the 7th December, so please take your 13 minutes online to fill it out (that’s all it takes the stats tell us!). Ros Day, who is the planner working most closely with us on this project writes:
Overall, feedback suggests a positive community view of the project in terms of its concept, energy philosophy and principles and desired outcomes for the community. There is a strong indication from both the Community Open days and the on-line survey that the Blueskin community is buoyed by the possibility that it may be paving the way for the energy future of New Zealand communities.”
That’s great affirmation! There are also strong preferences for a socially equitable business model – and evidently lots of community knowledge in this area. Residents have been quite positive in terms of investment – more than I anticipated I have to say – conditional of-course upon final assessment of the project’s economic viability. In terms of sites, the Porteous Hill site is easily the most preferred site, while many people were not so concerned about exactly which site at this stage in the project.  There was on the other hand a small proportion of the community who have expressed concern regarding three issues: the Mopanui Ridgeline site; that even more sites should be investigated; potential environmental impacts, i.e. bird life, visual impact and health impacts.

There’s a great deal of interest in reinvesting any value from a successful wind cluster development as a community dividend in energy initatives, such as further insulation, solar hot-water and other initiatives. This is exactly the benefit that the ‘social enterprise’ model (a BRCT goal) can provide. Please do take a few minutes to fill in the survey that you will find on line at: . If you are not connected to the internet phone me on 03 482 2048 during working hours and I will send you a hard copy of the survey to complete and mail back.

Other News
Collection of wind data is continuing and as you will note in the BRCT column, BRCT is seeking funding for a pilot Community Energy Advisory service, which will allow us to collaborate with the national Community Energy Network – aiming to fill the energy advice gap in Otago (starting with Blueskin first). Have a good November!


October 2011, BEP

Open Days and community
What a wonderful experience, in all our small halls and local settlements over two weekends in September. Residents and visitors attended the Open Days held at Long Beach, Warrington and Waitati to learn more about the Blueskin Energy Project and contribute thoughts, ideas and passion! Thank you to everyone for your obvious and keen interest. An impressive amount of information has been collected from these recent Open Days –people placed stickers on maps indicating their household location (where they came from), made comments and left their details, proffered remarks on the banners hanging on the walls, participated in a Straw Poll, and all have been invited to fill out the online survey (at Blueskin Power). The project of a local wind cluster requires first a robust process enabling community input. This is what the Open Days were intended to do – not sell a project, but increase participation, share information and enable input.

We are now in the process of analysing and ordering the information collected, assisted by planners Ros Day and Andrew Henderson. Information gathered at the Open Days (and in the online survey) has several purposes. It will:
1.    Help gauge the level and quality of support for the wind cluster proposal;
2.    Provide guidance for the next stages of work on the project;
3.    Demonstrate gaps in information and further work required; and,
4.    Enable evaluation of our efforts to ensure broad participation.

The information will be used in the first instance to enable BRCT to complete a report on community engagement for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. That report, like the 2010 Blueskin Power Feasibility Study, will become a public document. The engagement report is however only the most immediate outcome. Information collected will also enable the development of the next stage in the wind cluster proposal. While data collection is ongoing, the work in parallel is now to develop further the best business model to enable the project and reflect community values. This is by no means a simple task, but it is one that will be much easier now that we have input from a larger section of the Blueskin community. Pulling together all the elements from the Open Days and survey, while moving further along with the proposal will take some months. Early in the New Year we’ll hold follow-up public meetings to report back on how the summary is looking. This stage of the proposal is a really important stage.  Even if you didn’t make it to the Open Days please take 5 minutes to fill in the survey that you will find on line at: - though I’d suggest you take a look at the displays (also available online) first. If you are not connected to the internet phone me on 03 482 2048 during working hours and I will send you a hard copy of the survey to complete and mail back.


September 2011, BEP

The first thing you’ll notice this month is a name change. I know there are too many acronyms in Blueskin Bay, however the Waitati Energy Project has long outgrown its modest beginnings, and as you'll see at the forthcoming Open Days, it is now a truly "Blueskin" project, so the change to the 'Blueskin Energy Project'. This is a change by necessity and accuracy too, as no-one could argue that participants in Waitati Energy Project activities hail only from Waitati anymore. What's in a name? A more inclusive, accurate and powerful collective action is the goal.

Our community energy journey
‘Blueskin Energy Project’ Open Days begin this month, kicking off at Long Beach Hall on the 11th of September, then at the Warrington and Waitati Halls the following weekend (17th & 18th – see advertisement p?) What we’ve done is summarise the work to date in a range of graphic displays. The idea of community wind turbines was first mooted in 2006 and community energy work began in 2007, with a focus initially on raising awareness about energy issues and energy efficiency. It wasn’t until 2009 that substantial work on making our houses more energy efficient (the Waitati Energy Project Retrofit Programme) and establishing the feasibility of local renewable energy really began. Since then, much has been achieved, and discussed at numerous public events and meetings. The open dialogue at Waitati Energy Project meetings has provided a wealth of information that has helped guide the project forward, but there have been gaps. Information has not been as well spread in all Blueskin settlements, and there are different levels of understanding so we’ll be taking the displays into communities and asking everyone to have a say. We really want to see as many people as possible, and to that end, are making sure that there will be things for everyone, i.e. fun bits and pieces alongside rich information. Please come along to discuss, yarn, observe, play, or whatever, on one of these weekend afternoons.


Wind Data news
Oh the sad news! Securing data collection at a cold windy site is not always simple, all the experts know. So when the data collector stopped sending updates to Our Wind Limited at the end of June, we weren’t concerned at first – there’s back-up. In July PJ Clarke and I added an additional solar panel to increase battery charging, and 24 hours later replaced the battery. However, the original battery had actually died and so, with it, had the data collection programme. The next few days it blew and blew and blew. But the wind tower wasn’t registering anything comprehensible. It was only after Laurence Hay on his regular check did an ‘unplug – replug’ that the programme could be uploaded and data collected again. All in all we lost about 6 weeks of data – six very windy weeks I might add! Still, things are back on track and Porteous Hill is again demonstrating that there is good wind resource available (see wind rose).

Contact: Tel: 03 4822048 / email:


August 2011, WEP

Action on Energy
Last month I wrote about the Democratising Energy Hui and gave a little detail on Feed-in Tariffs. Since then, copies of the Hui presentations have been loaded onto the website (go to then follow the link to the Blueskin Power/WEP page – a brief summary of what was achieved is there too). Now, a small national working group on Feed-in Tariffs has been established, with participation from the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust, Nelson Environment Centre, 350 Aotearoa, and Refit-NZ. We’re anticipating some further input as the working group establishes policy recommendations, and already this is a very positive development given the abject lack of detail in the glossy 2011 New Zealand Energy Strategy on just how we can build a more sustainable energy future.

Work on preparing posters and material about the Blueskin Wind Cluster project to take to all communities within the Blueskin zone continues apace – though you all would have noticed that we weren’t been able to go public in July, mainly due to lack of resources. Keep your eyes on this space and meanwhile, all the time the story on local energy just gets better. Of note is the Dunedin City Council’s recent ‘Solar Promise’ (ODT, Tues, 12 Jul 2011), in which Mayor Dave Cull has signed up alongside other councils to promote solar energy. At the same time the DCC is working on developing a energy efficiency programme offering targetted rates to allow people to invest in clean-technology, such as solar hot-water and insulation and improve their household’s energy profile. I am hopeful there will be a neat marriage between opportunities we establish and DCC support packages to make access simple.

Speaking of solar, it appears the panel that allows electronic transmission of wind data on the wind tower at Porteous Hill has not been up to the job recently (hence the limited Wind Rose this month: 17th - 29th June) and some minor maintenance is required. We are still collecting all the data, its just that to conserve energy there’s been a pause in data transmission to our friends at Our Wind Limited for a few weeks. Meanwhile Laurence and Margaret Hay have been wonderful ‘keepers’ for the tower, maintaining stock fences, ensuring all guy-lines are firm and generally keeping an eye on things.

Energy Advice
The Waitati Energy Project as it has grown and morphed into a Blueskin community energy project has developed a deep body of knowledge and rich relationships relating to energy. We work from and for the Blueskin community and receive a large number of requests for information and advice on energy matters, which are answered as and when possible. However we don’t currently have any resources to do this formally. The Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust has recognised that there is potential for a new staff member to provide community energy advice and developing our capacity to deliver results will be a focus over the next 12 months, alongside the existing work on the wind cluster and community energy. Contact
Tel: 03 4822048 / email:


July 2011, WEP

Democratising Energy
On the 17th of June the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust, supported by the Hikurangi Foundation organised a Hui (titled “Democratising Energy”) at the Puketeraki Marae. The purpose was to bring together a range of experts, community members and academics to look at the national policies and regulations around renewable energy and to use the specific example of Blueskin Power to examine challenges and opportunities. The morning session heard from BRCT patron Jeanette Fitzsimons, Transpower’s Paul Fuge, and Refit-NZ’s Stephan Heubeck, before working together to identify the key issues. The end of the morning revealed a diversity of challenges and facts, for example: Transpower is focussing on a nation-wide grid upgrade (“Enduring Grid”); Distributed Generation can ease the pressure on the national grid; and the government appears to be largely ignoring Distributed Generation. It became clear that the new NZ Energy Strategy is not in fact a strategy and consensus was reached to establish a group to help the government plan to reach it’s goal of 90% renewables by 2025. After a wonderful locally sourced lunch provided by Nicky Clark and Julie Cook, the afternoon session began. It was kicked off by Chris Freear from Our Wind Limited and myself, providing specific context for small wind in New Zealand with local wind examples. Then we heard from Paul Atkins (National Energy Research Institute), Janet Stephenson (Otago Energy Research Centre) and Greg Sise (EnergyLink).  The afternoon session really got into the nitty-gritty of action going forward, revealing some surprising doorways (names and addresses), and some exciting affirmation of the path we’re embarked upon locally. We were also assisted with input from Labour’s Pete Hodgeson and Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei (with an apology from National’s Michael Woodhouse). One further key outcome from the Hui was an agreement to work on a clear Feed-in Tariff policy for New Zealand, bringing in all those who have been working on this in NZ to ensure a strong consensus. As you can imagine, after the Hui the work really began (by July all presentations should available on the Waitati Energy Project page as well as a summary of outcomes).

Some of the Hui participants, after lunch.

Facts on Feed-in Tariffs

What are Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs)? FiTs are ‘market steering mechanisms’ that foster a diversity of generation. Typically a FiT has three main characteristics: priority given to small-scale renewable generation; long-term agreed prices allowing secure investment; national equalisation of costs. FiTs allow incremental, modular generation addition to the grid (a cost effective approach), spread spatial load, reduce the need for grid upgrades, and therefore help avoid bottlenecks, and in so doing would build greater resilience. I don’t have the space to expand on the value of FiTs or their prevalence around the world, but you can find more information here: and soon on the WEP pages on our website.

Community Engagement
The time taken to settle an EECA contract in relation to our engagement work means we’re still putting together the story of energy and Blueskin Bay. However we are looking forward to getting people and information into halls around the Bay beginning in July, touch wood – though dates yet to be confirmed.

Wind Rose from wind tower at Porteous site for period 20th May -11th June
Tel: 03 4822048 / email:



June 2011, WEP

Wind Testing
Under the guidance of technical expert Matt Buchan on behalf of OWL, a group of us raised the 10 metre tower (with testing equipment on it) on a brisk day recently (Friday the 13th! May). Our Wind Limited (OWL), in supplying the tower and analysis, is enabling the crucial technical aspects of the wind cluster project. And I was impressed to see Basil Ireland, Laurence Hay, and Gerry Thompson, all grandfathers, wielding the sledgehammer and rammer more competently than men half their ages. Along with Xavier and myself, it took us all three hours to prepare and raise the tower, ensure monitoring had begun, and animal-proof the site on the Robertson’s family farm above Warrington. As soon as it was up, and systems tested, Matt was able to tell us that the wind, at 10 metres above the ground was blowing at a very healthy 8 metres per second. We were cold, however the wind at ground level did not seem very strong at all and I was excited that now we can begin to get some very precise wind data at a very promising site. Testing will take time, and our knowledge will grow week by week, barring any incidents. Fortunately we have a wealth of knowledge already and this information will enhance what we are now gathering on site. I’ll be giving regular updates on wind results in these columns and more often in email updates. Meanwhile, thanks to an EECA contract in process we’re now able to enlist some planning assistance and meanwhile, Ross Johnston (BRCT trustee) and I are working on getting all the energy action and investigations done of the past few years into a presentable public format, with professional help.

Solar Saver model
Thank you to all who put in submissions to the DCC’s Draft Annual Plan (DAP) on Solar Saver. This council is much more responsive to its communities than we’ve experienced in the past and for those keeping an eye on DAP outcomes in the ODT, did you see ‘Briefs’ on Thursday May the 12th? There it was reported that DCC staff are now working to get the Solar Saver model (a targeted rates bill to allow solar hot water installations) broadened and used to invest in options for making all households more sustainable, not only through solar hot water, but also insulation, solar PV, rainwater tanks, etc. This is a great outcome for all Dunedin.

Wind Rose from wind tower at Porteous site for period 13-19th May.

Tel: 03 4822048 / email:




May 2011, WEP

New Zealand Energy Strategy

The new New Zealand Energy Strategy, accidentally released by a government official should really be called “The Dig for Victory Economic Policy”. While the non-renewable energy industry globally is suffering badly (in economic terms) in the world recession, and with the strong economic returns being demonstrated internationally by clean technology, is the new NZ Energy Strategy what we need? Dr Eric Martinot, an international energy expert who visited NZ recently didn’t even bother talking to government officials. Virtually every other country in the world is desperately seeking ways to develop renewable generation but we seem to be mired in a 19th century optimism of salvation via fossil fuels. However it’s a question of basic economics – with known upfront costs and very low ongoing costs (potentially forever) renewable generation is the path to energy security and economic sustainability. Why gamble on finite resources in an incredibly unstable market? So, I’m disappointed that this government hasn’t realised the opportunity, or taken on board the WEP submission and many other submissions made last year, to develop a path to build energy resilience for New Zealand. Nevertheless, locally things are much more positive.

Renewable Generation

Alongside new offers of community support (thank you!) there’s further local energy action – LED lighting, energy monitoring tools – things that the passionate individuals involved intend disseminating once developed. BRCT is supporting the development of a comprehensive engagement process and materials, and discussion with the DCC is underway, with the goal of finding ways in which the city could facilitate a community owned wind cluster at no cost to ratepayers. The Powerhouse Wind team continue their fine-tuning of the Thinair turbine at Hagen and Sabina’s place and have a special offer (once they go commercial) for Blueskin residents wanting to buy their household scale turbine. On April the 21st Chris Freear of Our Wind Limited delivered a 10 metre tower and wind testing equipment for the next stage in precise wind testing at Blueskin Bay. There was a touch and go moment in the journey in Gerry’s Series 1 LandRover to the test site, with a stop on route to allow the engine to cool. We all had real concern that its cameo in the Zombie movie the next day might be compromised by the unreasonable work demands we were making of it. Admirably it got its load safely to the site and the tower was unloaded and safely stored ready for installation.

Dr James Hansen, 18th May in Dunedin.

Dr. James Hansen is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. The world leading climate scientist gave evidence to the US congress in 1988, and has been developing solutions to climate change: solutions that stimulate the economy, phase out fossil fuel addiction, and stabilize the climate. His book “Storms of my Grandchildren” is a must read and Dr Hansen will present a public lecture on “Human-Made Climate Change: A Scientific, Moral and Legal Issue” on Wednesday 18 May, 2011 at 5:30 pm in the St. David Lecture Theatre at the University of Otago.

Contact me at: Tel: 03 4822048 / email:



April 2011, WEP

Hard work has being going into energy options for Blueskin Bay. On the 9th of March new NZ company ‘Our Wind Ltd’ (OWL) and the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to establish a model for a community owned wind cluster at Blueskin Bay (see the front page). One key thing about this agreement is the way in which we intend all Blueskin communities will be involved. Everywhere around the country other communities are seeking to start similar projects, and learning from what we do. OWL is a new company with a vision of communities owning their own electricity generation, and we’re the first community (represented by the trust) that OWL has signed an agreement with. You may have read about this in the ODT, heard about it at the WEP forum on Feb 15th, or read about it in the last WEP email update. Or, this is news to you. Whatever the case, what we now have is the ability to progress the local energy story that began right back in 2006.

We have to ensure that whatever happens, we maintain the creative and intelligent community input that has made this project such a symbol of community action around New Zealand. Contrary to what the ODT reported, I make no assumption that everyone is behind it or that there’s no opposition. However, what has been achieved so far has been done with heavy discussion, volunteer input, and one 30 hour a week salaried position. And since this is a New Zealand first there is no accepted way of doing things, and we’ve been able to, and obliged to, make this happen with much in-kind help and support, and on our own terms.

Many of you are aware that information on this project is now being discussed more widely: the ‘Energy and Blueskin Bay’ mail drop in December, and the WEP forum in Feb for example. I value all the new subscribers to the WEP email list and your feedback. Yet because we now know that for some people this project is new information, we will have to create a very clear explanation of how it came about, and the work to date – despite it being old hat to some. We’ll be getting into the detail of how electricity is consumed in our homes, and what the future might hold. We’ll collate and compare the work on options for household electricity and look at the conditions involved with the establishment of a community wind cluster. As much as is possible we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of sites, costs per household and shape of community ownership so as to create the opportunity for discussion and debate. And we’ll be setting out the path ahead over the next 2 years and seeking broad input into that. It’s only at that point that we’ll have a good understanding of how substantial the support for this project is.

Formal Welcome of OWL to Blueskin Bay

As electricity prices begin to spiral, and national generation assets (potentially) privatised, I hope the community enthusiasm that kicked this ambitious project off in the first place can be focussed in a collective vision to enable us control our energy future and harness what is all around us. The Memorandum with OWL brings valuable support, yet what we achieve is up to us. Feel free to email questions or call about things you'd like to know. There's also a wealth of documentation at the BRCT office - best time to visit is after 3pm on Fridays. Tel: 03 4822048 / email:


March 2011, WEP

Blueskin Power
‘Blueskin Power Co-operative Wind Project’ was the title of our feasibility study on community wind generation (see: PDF at the EECA website), and ‘Blueskin Power – Integrated Energy Community’ is a new application to the Ministry for the Environment. Blueskin Power really makes sense when we think about what our local grid looks like: picture a tree, with a main trunk and a number of branches radiating out from it. That’s our local network – an end point of the grid breaking the big chunk of electricity down into smaller bits at the Waitati Sub-Station, before feeding out to all the Blueskin residents via smaller lines. Obviously if we put up community scale generation, it is good to feed into the ‘tree trunk’ – as this is big and strong (a 33kV line) and can absorb and then distribute the power (via the sub-station) from a local wind cluster. While household scale generation (Thinair turbines, Photovoltaic panels, micro-hydro) can easily be fed into the smaller ‘branches’ radiating out from the sub-station. Together, such a system would provide for a very robust and resilient local system, linked to the national network but essentially producing all our own needs – using the national grid as a big battery to manage the peaks and lows. A number of other technologies and practices can make our local energy system even more resilient (wood-lots for heating, further insulation and retrofit programmes, behaviour changes) and I don’t know if I need to mention how greater autonomy will help us equitably manage rising electricity costs as government changes come into effect, and how we can achieve not only social outcomes, but environmental and economic outcomes at the same time.

Turbine Maintenance on the Danish island of Samso. Photo by Nicky Bonne, Guardian Newspapers.

‘Blueskin Power – Integrated Energy Community’ is a response to a number of requests that have been made in WEP meetings for a range of energy action, and aims to use our natural advantage (the end point of a grid, and a community already quite engaged on energy issues) and Ministry for the Environment funding to negotiate green technologies for Blueskin households with community wide evaluation of the benefits and challenges. It pivots around the central project of a small wind cluster, leveraging off that to slowly build energy resilience via other technologies and actions. If successful, it could be a sort of open-air community green park (think ‘Samso’, but on a reduced scale). There’s always a distance between ambition and reality and this project needs funding. It also crucially needs external support, and I’m very happy to report there’s been some wonderful support offered: Waitati School and Puketeraki Runaka as local institutions; the DCC and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, as local government and a government agency; the Hikurangi Foundation from the NGO sector; the National Energy Research Institute and the Otago Energy Research Centre as objective energy researchers, and PowerNet, our local lines managers, along with the International Business Academy, GreenChip and of course Powerhouse Wind – and there are more! The energy journey we kicked off in 2007 is right into full stride now, and I’m thankful that the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust is right behind it. We still need to secure the funding to keep people (ideally more than just me) working on this but we’ve now got the structures and support to ensure we’ll go along way.
Feel free to email questions or things you'd like to know about community energy, community wind cluster, etc, and I'll do my best to respond either directly or in a public forum. There's also a wealth of documentation at the BRCT office - best time to visit is after 3pm on Fridays.


February 2011, WEP

Ten degrees daytime temperature in summer? Well, it is January (as I write), typically a rotten weather month, and with four (mostly) large people in our house we do sometimes need to light the fire to ensure a supply of hot water, even when the summer sun shines. The problem isn't our inefficient solar tubes – in fact they're very efficient – it's the small size of our hot-water cylinder, which I should have replaced when we put in our solar hot-water system in 2004. The sun only heats water during the sunlight hours after all, but we use it at all times of the day, particularly mornings and evenings.

In December, during a workshop, a series of meetings, and a symposium, in Wellington and Whanganui, I had an opportunity to meet a whole range of people interested in energy issues. What was surprising to me was learning of so many people looking to Blueskin Bay and our energy initiatives to show a way forward for their own energy ambitions. It is rather daunting to realise that people have their hopes pinned on us. With adequate resourcing, however, I am sure we will have the goods to deliver. In January and early February I am working on an important Community Environment Fund bid to support the development of an integrated energy community encompassing the zone identified in Blueskin Power investigations: Purakaunui, Long Beach, Osborne, Waitati, Evansdale and Warrington (the end point of the local grid that radiates out from the Waitati substation). The idea is to meet the desire expressed in Waitati Energy Project public meetings to work on full energy options, i.e. the community turbine AND other green technology to generate electricity, while also increasing household energy efficiency and reducing energy demand. I'm hoping we can secure an exciting range of energy technologies to offer within the Blueskin zone, ideally subsidised or available for trial. Watch this space, as we're developing some great partnerships that promise some results on the ground even if the CEF bid is ultimately unsuccessful.

International intern
Xavier, a 20-year-old student at the International Business Academy (bachelor programme), will be joining me in our new office in mid-February for two and a half months. Xavier is going to work with me on developing the business answers to enable the establishment of a community turbine or small wind cluster. Please look out for Xavier and say hello if you bump into him.

Community input
Many of you received a flyer (Energy and Blueskin Bay) in your letterbox last year giving some general information about the energy investigations to date and offering an opportunity to get involved. It is still hoped that we can tie this event in with EECA-supported research, but I can't say yet if that will be possible. In parallel,
Seth Gorrie of the Otago University Energy Cultures team has been interviewing residents in Blueskin Bay over summer about energy issues, and I've heard that his preliminary findings reveal a strong interest in the energy initiatives from residents in all our coastal communities and a desire to be further involved. I've also heard that many people have some very intelligent questions, which bodes well for future productive public discussion and decisions.

Powerhouse Wind in Blueskin
The December WEP subscriber email update included an offer from Powerhouse Wind, offering two different deals for their soon to be commercialised Thinair turbine. You may also have seen articles in the ODT of 5 January on both Blueskin and Powerhouse Wind (see:
If you're not on the WEP list and want to follow this up, contact PHW on 470 1071 or email .
More regular updates are sent out via the WEP email update – contact
me at to register.

Scott Willis
Project Manager
Waitati Energy Project (Blueskin Power)


December 2010, WEP

Community Consultation
Community discussion on how best to include everyone and assess the most helpful community turbine information will be held on the 30th of November at the next WEP meeting. (Potentially before you read this). While we still have no word on our funding request for comprehensive community consultation there is a research project now underway that will provide an opportunity to uncover what important questions about the community turbine are still to be answered. Seth Gorrie, who many of you may remember from his work in Blueskin Bay last year, is working over the summer, researching ‘Community Perspectives around Blueskin Power’, so don’t be surprised if he knocks on your door.

Blueskin Power
Initially Blueskin Power referred to the community turbine project. It has developed subsequently as a response to feedback at the last WEP meeting and to the greater potential in integrating other energy work, to mean ‘an integrated energy community’. It is already more than an idea, as we have been working in an integrated way for a while, but what Blueskin Power does make explicit is the value of including small wind, such as Powerhouse Wind’s Thinair turbine, solar installs, smart meters, insulation, intelligent design, and more in the vision encapsulated by the community turbine. We are lucky that the distinct section of local grid we inhabit also expresses our wider Blueskin community. And the value of integrated thinking to the community has already been experienced (for example, the 2009 WEP retrofit rollout) with further action in the pipeline. An even greater value, I believe, is available for the rest of the country, as we prove that an integrated approach to energy is also an excellent opportunity to promote and test green technology, and to demonstrate the effectiveness of collective action, while building a model for other communities.

So in November and December I’ll be reporting on lessons learnt and seeking input from around NZ. On the 24th of November I’m presenting at the Otago Energy Research Centre Symposium in Dunedin. On the 9th of December I’m presenting at a Wellington ‘Behavioural Innovators Workshop’; and on the 11th of December I’m participating in the ‘Energetics and Informatics’ symposium in Whanganui. Then in February we have Xavier, a 20 yr old student in the EBM (European Business Management) bachelor program, arriving from Belgium to spend 13 weeks with us looking at the business side of our project. Are you interested in hosting an overseas student? Xavier is a non-smoker, a friend of animals, loves music and will happily fit in with a family interested in experiencing another culture. Xavier can contribute towards your hosting costs. For more information contact Scott – see below.

Remember, more regular updates are sent out via the WEP update email and you can contact me directly either at 03 4822048 / 0274888314 or at Have a great Christmas and relaxing summer holidays and make the most of that sun!


November 2010, WEP

Big Wind
Our local community turbine project is a nationally significant project. How so? Well, we all understand I hope the benefits of securing greater control over our energy needs and use locally. Nationally, if we’re successful and there were more communities like us, we’d eventually reach a critical mass transforming our centralised, think-big, top-down grid system into a decentralised, responsive network with much greater resilience. This would also limit the need for any large scale generation projects, reduce pressure on existing infrastructure (and thus make things work more effectively), and give us greater control over how we use our energy. I’ve received messages of support from around the country thanks to profile our project has been given by WEP partner, the Hikurangi Foundation, and I’m beginning to build up a network of national advocates, who are already helping with bits of technical and commercial advice. The fantastic Hikurangi facilitation is already helping to sharpen the work we’re doing on the financial case for our community turbine. Meanwhile, I’m working with Ros Day (planner) and Janet Stephenson (Otago Energy Research Centre) on research that will allow our community consultation, if the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority agrees in its merit. I hope to have news for you before Christmas on consultation.

Small Wind
You can’t have missed PowerHouse Wind’s ‘Thinair’ single blade prototype being tested at Sabina and Hagen’s place on Blueskin Road near the Eco-sanctuary. The exciting thing is that by mid November PHW expect to replace the prototype with a pre-production model (essentially replacing a single construction model with a factory-ready model) and have it up and running continuously, allowing Sabina and Hagen to export, as well as import, electricity. Trials using a Christchurch manufactured (and world leading!) inverter have already been successful in allowing power to be fed back to the grid. Bill Currie (PHW) explains the complex process: “The turbine has to start, be held by the controller at idle speed while the inverter wakes up, checks the grid is suitable to be connected to, (e.g. no lines people out there working) and synchronises with the AC voltage. The turbine controller then has to start feeding power to the inverter and telling it how much power to take to load the turbine correctly”. There’s some perfectioning still going on, and investment needed before Thinair turbines are rolling out the factory door, so please do contact PHW if you want to know more about investing in local innovative green tech for a sustainable future.

The Pre-production Thinair on the PHW workshop floor.

Blueskin Power is more than just big wind. The community turbine is the keystone at present, as success here will allow so much more to happen. But there is a further generation opportunity that may be complementary, parallel, or alternative, depending on how we manage the challenges ahead. This is integrating smaller household generation into our local grid, via (for example) more Thinair turbines and household Photovoltaic 1-2 kW arrays. Both these generation options can use the same Enasolar inverters and will ensure progressively greater local grid resilience with returns to individual households. And the whole system can then be made so much more ‘intelligent’ with Smart ‘real-time’ meters and intelligent home devices, giving power back to the people!

More regular updates are sent out via the WEP update email or you can contact me directly either at 03 4822048 / 0274888314 or


October 2010, WEP

There was plenty in September to help focus our minds on increasing household resilience. Earthquakes in Christchurch reminded us all of how our ‘everyday’ can change dramatically and suddenly. Gales, snow, sleet, snow and gales again all added to the anxiety: “Do we have an emergency kit, or cans and candles?”.

(Photo by Phil Morgan from 'The Press' community photos)

In 2006 a community workshop looked into the challenges and opportunities we would face within one and two decades (bigger storm events, resource crunches, local communities, etc). Out of that workshop came many ideas and the Weggies and WEP are just two results. Now, 4 years later we’re seriously looking at building our own power source and taking charge of our own power needs.
I’ve been talking about this for some time, however outside of community meetings and direct discussion/queries, there has been no real opportunity for wide public community dialogue. So for the past month I’ve been working hard on ‘back-room’ stuff, like securing funding and planning the next phase of the community turbine, to allow public dialogue. The Hikurangi Foundation, our current sponsors, has agreed to provide support for a further 12 months. Support that is not only some salary, but crucially also mentoring, advice and expertise. Without this crucial support the serious work would grind to a halt. And the next critical step is in-depth community consultation. For this, I’ve been working with Ros Day and Janet Stephenson at Otago University, and together we’re requesting involvement from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. Janet argues that while “New Zealand's planning system is set up to enable the involvement of the community and wider public in decision-making processes under the Resource Management Act, the resource consent process offers a very limited opportunity for the public to have a voice on wider socially determined issues”. This renewable generation project was led by the community, and developed in workshops and public meetings. Now I’m employed to take it to development and document the process and pitfalls along the way. Through WEP we’ve already looked at a range of energy generation possibilities suitable for our communities. WEP work over the past 20 months has led to a much greater understanding around the potential costs and benefits to the community, for example, co-development opportunity, the possibility of community ownership etc. Now, if we are to move to development, we need to check community opinion on what has already been done and determine what the acceptable balance might be (in terms of personal wellbeing, social, and environmental factors). We also need to confirm the parameters around site options, scale and types of Renewable Generation within the community. Importantly, we want to do this seriously, with clear surveys and good visual displays demonstrating whether your house falls within the Waitati Sub-station area, what your energy bill might look like, etc., and have experts on hand to answer questions. This will be the real start – we’ve found that our own renewable generation is feasible: now, together, are we able to create the conditions required for New Zealand’s first community initiated, led and developed wind turbine to become fact?
More regular updates are sent out via the WEP update email or you can contact me directly either at 03 4822048 / 0274888314 or



September 2010, WEP

What is the Balance?
With new 10 Megawatt wind turbines in development, and 3 and 5 Megawatt turbines already a reality, bigger is better, right? Certainly, this is the way wind development is going, as the limits of renewable generation are addressed. Limits like accessing remote hilltops, and the potentially long and uncertain journey of resource consent. The new megaturbines in development are designed to work off-shore mainly, away from that ‘thing’ that bothers many turbine developments: people. Of course, off-shore means other issues, like very expensive infrastructure (make it bigger to make it cost-efficient, the argument goes…), like maintenance challenges and corresion of parts.

As you all know though, generation is only one part of the picture, and if we concentrate only on that we won’t be able to address the real issues around energy. Reassuringly, with the benefit of local research, WEP meetings and public meetings, it appears that in the Blueskin Bay area most people want balance, not generation for the sake of it. We’ll get more insight as public consultation gets underway, but for now, lets assume that most people in Blueskin Bay (Waitati, Warrington, Evansdale and Purakaunui; or the ‘Waitati Sub-Station area’) think it would be a good thing if we could generate all or most of our local electricity needs, and moderate our use. This is essentially what ‘Blueskin Power’ – the community turbine – is all about: creating renewable generation to cover our needs (more or less) and to provide local control over energy costs, with income from the turbine to fund programmes to retrofit, install solar, etc.

We’re looking at a single 750 – 850 Kilowatt turbine, probably in a group of three turbines in total, with the other two belonging to a development partner. We almost certainly need a partner to allow us to sell our electricity back to the market (which we have to do). These turbines are very modest compared to most terrestrial wind generation and they will be visible, because the only place to get the good wind is up high, in prominent locations.

But back to that human problem. Electricity, without exaggeration, is key to just about everything we do. It is essential infrastructure, and some might argue, an ‘entitlement’, or ours by right. But any sense of entitlement obscures the thing itself; it obscures the nature of our electricity (some of it comes from Huntly, some from very large hydro, and all comes from a long way away), and it obscures the cost of it (environmental, social and economic). But if we stick with the idea that electricity is ‘essential infrastructure’, then we can secure our infrastructure, gain greater control over it and the purposes to which it is put, through our collective action. I’d rather integrate generation with energy efficiency and reduction of energy demand, to show that we don’t always need to build bigger, more, and further afield. So rather than assuming a ‘right’ (which actually involves a contract and paying a monthly subscription), what if we aimed for a balance? A balance that would involve things like a community turbine AND ultrasmart meters (letting us know how much we’re consuming at the same moment the turbine is turning), AND further insulation opportunities/ new solar opportunities, for example. So while big developers may see people as the challenge, in Blueskin Bay as we ensure that the benefits are equitably spread and real, I’m optimistic that people will be the solution, not the problem.

Not (yet) in Blueskin Bay!These are German cows exemplifying a multifunctional landscape.

Wind Testing
There’s well over 12 months worth of data from our two local wind stations now. What began with GEOG380 was taken over by MSc. student Alice Bowden, and now Alice is nearing completion with her masters. Consequently, one wind station has been taken down, and the other has been simplified, to maintain basic data collection, while Alice works on analysis. I’m anticipating that as Alice goes through the final analysis and cross references the NIWA data from weather stations in our area (as well as the other wind data we hold), we’ll receive some pretty accurate meso-level appraisal of the wind potential. We know already that a higher wind station would be desirable, but that will need to be site specific (for specific accuracy). Essentially, working with the University, we won’t be looking at any more student work and testing until 2011. However if we enter into a development partnership, more intense resources may be brought to bear to sharpen the data we have already. Meanwhile, I hope you’re keeping warm and looking forward to the fireworks on the 18th of September like me!

For more information or to subscribe to the WEP e-list, email me at or phone 4822048.
Scott Willis


August 2010, WEP

Turbine News

Did anyone hear Chris Laidlaw interviewing Keith Turner (ex-Meridian CEO) on National Radio on the 18th of July? Several very interesting questions were put to Keith Turner and at least two important issues came to the fore: Distributed Generation (or DG) and Policy (vacuum). Turner argued that DG (generating at or near the point of consumption with photovoltaics, micro wind or hydro, and strong grid interconnectedness) while clearly the path of the future, just hasn't happened despite the promise. Essentially (listening between the words) this is because we don't offer any incentives for DG and we maintain plenty of disincentives under our current market structure that seeks to foster competition in what is essential national infrastructure. The further we get down the path to our own energy generation in Blueskin Bay, it's become evident that no-one knows how to do this (community generation) in New Zealand yet, outside of a few individual households who have gone to considerable effort to exist outside the grid and a handful of grid interconnected households – but that's individuals, not communities. Keith Turner talked of 'economies of scale' which is another way of saying that our energy sector is designed for Think Big projects.

One thing we've discovered is that building the physical infrastructure is not complicated and will likely generate plenty of electricity at any one of the sites currently under consideration. In fact, New Zealand is the only country, we were told, where wind generation is built for its economic merits alone (we have plenty of wind) – all other countries subsidise wind to help reduce their reliance on 'dirty energy' (energy from non-renewables such as oil and coal). We have wind and we have sites, subject to lease agreements and agreement with our broad community of the desirability of the project. We could generate electricity. But there's another required 'infrastructure' we need to make the economic case. This is the virtual infrastructure of the market: as it is set up now, the electricity market will not easily accommodate generation from a small community with a wind turbine. If we had a large hydro lake and a geothermal plant as well, then it would be a piece of cake, but as it is, we will need help, in either changed policy or market partners.

The question we'll have to address as we talk about generating our own energy is: do we want electricity and do we want it to be from renewables? Because if we do, we will have the power to make it happen. The timeline is still not clear, as we need to find the appropriate way to build our virtual market infrastructure, raise capital, establish the co-operative, and secure the appropriate consents. I'm hoping to find a way to address the market challenge promptly, firstly because this challenge is almost as great for those single households who want to sell back to the grid, but also because we have such a good momentum right now. The rest will then follow. Things haven't been standing idle, but the Community Turbine Information Day won't be in August. Keep your eye out for a date in the Blueskin News or via the WEP E-list.


Economic light

With the GST rise on its way, and rising electricity prices right now, we can't afford to be complacent about ensuring we use less electricity and using electricity more efficiently. Unless you're an exceptional family that goes to bed when the light fails and rises at first light, you'll be lighting your home. Hopefully you're only lighting those spaces you're living in and have everyone ensuring they 'turn out the light'. More than good habits though, big efficiencies can now be made with the choice of lights and bulbs. Technology is delivering ever more efficient lighting, with incadescent bulbs easily replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs, saving energy and money, and also fluorescent tubes, low energy halogen, and LEDs among the more common for the householder. And if you're concerned about the tiny amount of mercury in some of the compact fluorescent bulbs, make sure you're as cautious about the fish you eat as well! Oh, and there's a competition sponsored by RightLight, an Industry-wide initiative developed by the Electricity Commission, offering $10, 000 to make your home more energy efficient. Here's the address: .

For more information on the WEP or to subscribe to the WEP e-list, email me at or phone 4822048.

Scott Willis



July 2010, WEP

Turbine News
Thanks to all the offers of assistance we now have the basis for a big day of information and consultation on the community turbine project. Look out in next month's Blueskin News for the date, and meanwhile rest assured that the community machinery will be oiled and in action. I've already heard of some great props for what promises to be another big event like the Energy Expos' of 2007 and 2008. I've also been talking with Powerhouse Wind's Bill Currie about not only the community turbine project but also our wider Blueskin grid, centred on the Waitati Substation. The promise of an integrated energy community that has emerged in our investigation of the community turbine is exciting. By 'integrated' I mean thinking and working with energy holistically: generating, consuming, and integrating it deeper into our lives, more deeply for example than the monthly bill most of us have such a 'disconnect' with currently. The more comprehensive approach to energy we've been exploring in the community via the WEP is something that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment proposed theoretically in the 'Get smart, think small' report in 2006. What is surprising perhaps, is that while the policy framework has been proposed for the Government by the PCE among others, and it's clear that there are plenty of people in our community who 'get it' – really, a truly responsive, distributed energy system with clear signals for consumers is commonsense – the surprising thing is that successive governments just don't 'get it'. Creating and maintaining a national energy system that runs according to the profit motive powered by Think Big generation can never return a low carbon, equitable, resilient system, because it simply has the wrong motor. What I find exciting is the possibility that we might be able to take control ourselves, and determine our own priorities, using the community turbine as the vehicle to establishing a local system with equitable distribution and low carbon outcomes, and making a small but paradigm altering change to the national energy system. And part of that excitement is due to partners like Powerhouse Wind, who are, with the Thin Air prototype testing in Waitati and the fine-tuning going on in their Dunedin workshop, on the verge of launching an affordable single household turbine into production. In an integrated energy community both our stories are linked.

Ancient Sunlight
The 2008 Waitati Household Energy Survey revealed low coal use in Waitati. Walking along Harvey Street and in other Waitati streets these cold winter days gives a very different impression however. An unmistakable odour hangs in a warm fug beneath the cold winter air. 300 million years ago a massive die off on a carbon rich world created fossil fuels. They've been an incredible bonus for humanity these last 200 years, with their terrrible downsides only well understood relatively recently. But where does that leave the householder? Often with Hobson's choice. Coal is still cheap and some of us have coal ranges designed for it and we need to keep warm in winter to keep healthy. But at the same time we're releasing that ancient sunlight as carbon, and with it all the other polluting particles that gives coal that special smell. No, we're not 1952 'pea soup' London, with thousands dying prematurely and hundreds of thousands falling ill. We've got coastal breezes and there are relatively few of us, so a little coal, polluting as it is, doesn't make dramatic headlines. Our atmosphere doesn't write letters to the editor. And even when we'd like to make a change, the cost of replacing that coal range with a woodburning stove (burning biomass) might be just too great. Really, to make change we need a carrot, not just the stick of social censure and the Emissions Trading Scheme. Luckily there is a minimum $500 subsidy (the max. is $1200) provided by EECA to move to clean heat for your household. It doesn't have to be a heatpump. And it is also
possible to retrofit a coal range to be a relatively efficient woodburner (with a wetback). There are even on the market very good wood burning stoves, for cooking on, heating water, and simply heating. I know there are several households who cook on coal – and remember gas, though clean burning, is also a fossil fuel. So while I
may happily cut wood for my adapted coal range, we only rarely cook on it. If you're burning coal however but it is not your key household fuel (cooking, hot water and heat) then is the EECA subsidy enough carrot to change to something cleaner? Perhaps along with a community turbine we need to look again at the concept of a community woodlot or woodlots. What else will help us all move to renewable energy? Whatever your source of heat, keep warm and invest wisely this winter to make sure you keep as much in your house as you can for as long as possible.
For more information or to subscribe to the WEP e-list, email me at or phone 4822048.


Hank and Leone's woodburning coal range.

June 2010, WEP

Community Energy
One of Waitati’s true gentlemen, so full of energy, has left us. Terry Sheppard was a real character with a big heart and a disarming grin, and was someone who knew with certainty what it was he wanted to do, even when bureaucrats and officials were less than convinced. I can’t get used to no longer seeing him on his bike, and it is Terry’s abrupt absence and the sense of close community that was evident following his death that is so reminiscent of who Terry was, and who we are: engaged, passionate and present. Terry won’t be forgotten, the memories are as strong and honest as his Castle, with its tonnes of stone and concrete. You've left a powerful legacy Terry, not just in the structures you created, but in all of those you touched and inspired. I just wish I'd taken up your offer to put a wind turbine on the top of the Castle, cuz!

Community Turbine
Earlier in May (on the 5th) I reported to the WEP group at Waitati Hall on our feasibility study into the community turbine. A large productive group asked questions and precisions and fuelled a buoyant atmosphere, with valuable discussion. A clear message about this generation project, from those present, was that integration with our consumption practices is important in ensuring the community turbine secures community support. We now know for example that there is a high likelihood of good financial viability and therefore returns for our community, in establishing a community turbine. There's still work to do in establishing a final assessment, but financial viability is crucial. There were also very clear indications that a community turbine is a way of achieving an integrated energy community – allowing us to live within our means rather than despoiling someone else's landscape and environment while consuming electricity from other sources (renewable and non-renewable). Production of electricity close to its consumption point provides great efficiencies.

Increasing the power we hold over our own consumption is something that was woven through the community turbine discussion. If we can link our share of the turbine to our power bill, in a clear message about the amount we've been rebated, wouldn't that send a strong message to reduce demand and ensure greater household efficiencies? Solar hot water, Photovoltaics, Ultra-Smart meters and Insulation all figured prominently too in the discussion. This is what an integrated energy community would look like: a truly distributed energy grid, with increasing levels of energy efficiency being monitored in our metering and billing systems and rewarded with rebates and energy technology subsidies. We know what value subsidised insulation can bring, in terms of lower power bills, lower carbon footprint, fewer health issues and greater family comfort. Imagine the elegance of building our own generation, giving us the ability to conduct an annual subsidised energy programme within the Blueskin Bay area.

How will this be possible? One of the most valuable insights shared at that meeting was that at a larger Blueskin community of around 700 households (from Purakaunui to near Seacliff for our section of the grid dependent on the Waitati sub-station), we spend at least $700 000 on electricity annually – that’s 700K practically in perpetuity. What if we decided to spend that same amount, or a substantial portion of it, on our own electricity? The investment would be firstly used in establishing our own turbine, and then using it's generation to return benefits to our own community, not investors elsewhere in NZ or Australia.

What now? Community consultation, which will involve an open day and surveys; establishing potential business agreements; conducting the last feasibility assessments; establishing our own legal body to own and manage the turbine. With these elements in place we can move to development. That's a strong task sheet for the rest of 2010.

The WEP meeting was a valuable public moment to examine more closely some of the ideas we hold collectively. Would a community turbine mean we hand control to a CEO? (Opinion, Blueskin News, 1 May 2010). Probably, yes, at least some control. For as co-operative or company shareholders we'd be likely to vote for someone to do the 'work' of managing our asset: at present we have no control over the management decisions behind the electricity we consume and the price we pay for it. Of course my work involves finding a way to enable strong community involvement and participation while ensuring we can also take pragmatic steps to build a more resilient and sustainable community. However please don't just wait for the formal consultation events planned! Contact me at the BRCT office, come in to have a look at a copy of the feasibility study, attend the WEP meetings to find out more, and don't forget our great wee community newsletter as a place to air opinions.

To get in touch contact me at:, or call the BRCT office on 4822048. (There’s also plenty of information on the website - - or by joining the WEP email list).



May 2010, WEP

Community Turbine update
Whew! Our big report to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is finally complete! My verbal report on what we’ve discovered will be on the agenda at the next WEP meeting (see below) but a key finding is that, upon securing a suitable site out of our short-list with 7.6 metre/second wind, we could make a community wind turbine financially viable: generating electricity and income for the Blueskin community from Purakaunui to Seacliff. That’s the simple story, and the complex one involves a joint development partnership (we own one turbine in a small cluster of approximately 3 turbines), settling on the community ownership form (co-operative company or limited liability company), and of course, raising the money.

This is a significant step towards establishing a community turbine. There is a strong potential to ensure a good return on community investment (potentially around 10%) that can be returned as both a household and a community good. The next stage will begin with community consultation. Then we would need to form the necessary partnerships, confirm a site and establish the formal community legal structure. We’ll need further funding for project development of course, and once the earlier elements are in place we begin raising community capital for the turbine purchase and start the resource consent application. This is a 1.5 million dollar project

WEP meeting
The next WEP meeting is booked for Wednesday the 5th May, 8pm, in the committee room, Waitati Hall. This is a meeting for the WEP and anyone interested in the community turbine is invited. A proposed agenda has gone out on the WEP e-list, but you know it includes the community turbine.

Energy Information – Word of Mouth or Online?
Most of us make decisions about what to do next, what to buy or how to install it or innovate from friends, neighbours and mates. The Waitati Energy Project in the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust office has also built up a body of work and knowledge useful for specific household energy issues and often know where to direct people if we can’t answer. (The Internet is for social networking sites isn’t it?)

However, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority who have supported us in various ways (and most recently with our community turbine feasibility study) have been busy making their website more sexy recently. They really want people to take a look, and now the site is much more accessible and helpful, it is worth a look. Perhaps the best hook is a competition they’ve organised to get people along. So come on Blueskin Bay, I want someone here to win a Honda Civic Hybrid, or at least a solar hot water system! Go to: to enter.

To get in touch contact me at:, or call the BRCT office on 4822048. (There’s also plenty of information on the website - - or by joining the WEP email list).




April 2010, WEP


Horseshoe Bend

Autumn weather was blowing a gale when the morning of our Horseshoe Bend field-trip dawned. There was only one 7am phone call though (“shouldn’t we cancel in this wind?”) and at the rendezvous point everyone was looking ready and warmly wrapped.

Our Roxburgh rendezvous point was ‘Jimmy’s Pies’ (where else?) where Peter Dowling, Pioneer Generation’s Chief Executive and Bob and Viv of our WEP group were waiting for us. After a brief introduction to Pioneer Generation by Peter, we set off again, winding up the road on the way to Horseshoe Bend. This was all very nostalgic country for me – my grandfather Jack Young was mayor of Roxburgh in the 1960s-70s and his grandfather Andrew Young was one of Roxburgh’s earliest settlers (a miner, beside the Teviot river) –every summer I remember as a child we’d spend part of our Christmas holidays exploring Roxburgh and surrounds.

At some point along the winding road to Horseshoe Bend we came over a crest and there they were: three giant children’s toys set in the bare undulating landscape. Closer, they grew more impressive and more a part of the landscape, a sculptural enhancement (for me at least) on a rise above the Teviot (and above Pioneer’s small 4.3MW Horseshoe Bend hydro station).

Beneath the turbines – only one was turning – we were astonished by the noise. The wind was a steady and cold 12 metres/second yet it sounded like a washing machine. Peter explained the tips of the blades (which reach to 69 metres on the vertical) are travelling at around 200 kms/hr at this speed and we could read the live output, showing around 550kW each moment, yet it was not noisy. Of course, the wind’s speed confuses turbine sound so that as paradoxical as it seems, wind turbines often seem more obvious in light winds than in real blusters.

I was most impressed by the simple, practical and effective technology: these are second hand turbines, and took 10 days to erect and begin generating. Inside a tower is not much. It is essentially a steel tube bolted together simply providing height for the ‘nacelle’ which sits on the top of the tower and includes most of the working parts of the turbine, and to which the rotor is attached. Essentially the wind pushes against the blades which turn the rotor which turns a generator (a dynamo) which makes electricity.

Peter fielded questions from our diverse group: technical questions, resource consent questions, business questions and in turn gave us an insight into the small 18 person community owned renewable generation company that is Pioneer Generation. Eventually, our fingers turning blue, we descended to the shelter of the nearby hydro plant. To cut a long story short, in addition to the turbines we visited the Horseshoe Bend hydro and Teviot Bridge and Teviot Ellis hydro.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the scale of generation – its low environmental impact and reflecting on difference between this type of embedded generation and the big hydro/wind/gas/coal/geothermal generation we mostly meet our household energy demands with. I loved too seeing NZ falcons on our trip and couldn’t help thinking that appropriate scale distributed generation is the way of the future, weaning ourselves off fossil fuels and generating energy closer to where we consume it, more in tune with our environment. A big thank you is due to Peter Dowling for being so generous with his time and knowledge. We had a late picnic lunch together by the Clutha (after very brief glimpse at the cob cottage my great great grandfather had built and my mother grew up in beside the Teviot), and meandered back to Waitati. A great day out!

GST and Energy

It seems inevitable. Prices are about to rise across the board in May as the government pursues a rise in GST, causing prices to rise on everything. We know of course that this type of tax will present most the most challenges to people whose household income is already borderline (levels of fuel poverty – the inability to afford to keep warm – are already extremely high in the south of the South Island). You may be already engaged with this politically, and there are pragmatic things we can do as well. Increasing household energy efficiency is probably one of the most effective things you could contemplate as we head towards winter and a GST hike. By investing now, in insulation, double glazing, solar hot water, photovoltaic panels, energy efficient appliances, or even dry wood, you’ll be buying at ‘X’ + GST 12.5% and saving when energy is costing ‘X’ + GST at 15% over winter. That’s a double benefit. The bigger and more strategic your energy efficiency investment now, the greater the percentage of negative GST impact you’ll be able to offset over time. GST is a very lucrative tax for governments. While this government is raising GST taxes, don’t expect any future government to cut it soon – it is just too good for the coffers. Now is the time to invest in greater financial security for your household by investing in energy efficiency.

Finally, work in the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust has been hectic this month. As I write, we have our community turbine feasibility report to finalise, and we’ve just completed a big funding bid in conjunction with Waitati School to the Community Development Scheme. It’s all on in Blueskin Bay!

Scott Willis

4822048 / 0274888314



March 2010, WEP

There’s plenty of news of wind farms to the West, and there is plenty happening in our own patch too. If we’re successful, we’ll own our turbine, and receive income from it, and have a say in what we do collectively with that income. Turbine news will follow, but first a little on Solar.


Solar (PV)

What if we could negotiate a good price for Photovoltaic systems (PV)? (that's systems that convert solar energy from the sun directly into electricity). Solar electricity systems, not solar hot water systems (though they too should be on virtually every house as a matter of course). The Waitati Energy Project has become aware of a potential price drop in PV panels and along with the change in technology it is simpler to connect to the grid. If confirmed, we may have an opportunity to do a similar thing to last year’s insulation retrofit rollout: this time it would be a 'PV rollout'.


There are a few things to fall into place first. One, we’re seeking funding to employ someone to work on this initiative (our office is small, with too many things on the desks already). Two, we’ll need to finalise negotiations with industry. Three, we’ll need to set up the systems to deliver. But the idea is that PV is complementary to a community turbine – it is modular and can be put in place over time to work in conjunction with it. Lindsay Graham is heading the WEP action on this, and we’ve talking with Port Chalmers, Transition Valley 473 and Hampden Energy Group around spreading it along East Coast Otago, and who knows where else?


Co-operative vs. company

Work on the community turbine is demanding energy at present. This month our report to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority is due, and there are still many loose ends to tie up. Alice Bowden, along with Seth Gorrie and Solis Norton at the University of Otago are working to allow us a robust generation estimate. Without enough wind we can't do much. Thanks also to data provided by Trustpower (testing in the late 1990s) we now have a good idea of what wind resources we can expect, though there is much fine tuning to do. We're only beginning to look at how we go about consulting widely. You know about things via the Blueskin News of course, but we're planning a big 'Information Day' mid year to discuss the project in more depth. And of course, how we own it is the big question (assuming it would be worth owning, i.e. enough wind). It is this curly question that Polson Higgs (business advisors) are contracted to help us find an answer to: will it be a co-operative or a company? We'll be able to provide interesting answers to this question by the end of March, I can guarantee that!


Turbine Field Trip

The field trip to Pioneer Generation's three 750 Kw NEG Micon turbines at Horseshoe Bend near Roxborough is scheduled for Saturday the 13th of March. This is going to be a fun day out, so please let me know if you'd like to come along: we have a lot to organise and want your details.


Turbine Testing Sites

Thank you to all who have suggested further sites. We're following up promising ideas and if you're a landowner above Warrington with an especially windy spot and like the idea, please get in touch.


Finally, while we're working on the turbine project at the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust office in Waitati, we're also busy writing funding applications for all the other activities planned and will soon be joined by a Weggie worker. None of that means we're too busy to enjoy what else is on offer. I'm particularly looking forward to the Train to Dunedin on the 10th of March and am planning a 'town day'. Then on the 27th of March there's EARTH HOUR: Lights off, between 8.30 – 9.30pm to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. And somewhere in between I'm off to Nelson to talk about our project and meet with the other Climate Change hubs funded by Hikurangi. Chuck in another Waitati Edible Gardeners Market on the 21st of March and the month with be cooked!


Yours from sunny Waitati,

Scott Willis

4822048 / 0274888314




February 2010, WEP

Site right height for power tower? From left Paul Guy of Smart Lift, Nigel McDonald, Alice Bowden and Rachel Spronken-Smith from the University of Otago appraise the suitability of the Mopanui ridgeline site to mount a 10 metre wind measuring tower. Photo by Waitati Energy Project


Waitati Energy Project: February Column (Scott Willis)

Whose New Year's Resolution was to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010? The Blueskin 10:10 initiative is a great public forum to explore and share ideas and strategies and we’re now firmly in the new decade. For me transport will be a big focus as it seems to be an area where I can easily alter some bad habits. And more generally in our communities around Blueskin Bay, wouldn't it be helpful to have a vibrant local economy, meaning less requirement to travel: imagine if we had a local bakery, pub, designer clothes store, in addition to our existing businesses for example.

Community Renewable Generation: Opportunity and Challenge
Five big players dominate electricity generation in NZ and the electricity market wasn’t designed to facilitate small-scale embedded generation. Technically we can generate electricity and integrate our generation into the local grid. We will find out whether there is the community will to control our own energy, just as people in NZ did in the past, as we develop the ownership formula, raise equity and go through the resource consent process. However we face the challenge of participating in a ‘Think Big’ electricity market. We won’t be able to do it if we can’t find a financially viable community model. That model will have to provide value to the community in terms of stable electricity supply and prices and by giving us the means to invest in community development (i.e. supporting our elderly residents, building a cycleway-walkway, assisting youth, building greater energy efficiency, for example).

Deciding on what our renewable generation will be involves several factors. We’ve already done pre-feasibility and worked out that at this stage only community scale wind turbines are feasible at present. But we need some solid, long term, cross referenced data on wind speeds and consistency to guide us in the selection of turbine – will we have enough wind for a Windflow 500 for example? And we need analysis of our options in term of market participation. Can we own and operate our own turbine and successfully participate in the national market, for example, or would we be best to seek a partner in generation – a company already present in the market who might manage our market risks in return for being able to build some generation alongside ours? It’s this type of question we have to consider while doing the financial appraisal of a community wind turbine.

We’re working with Chartered Accountants Polson Higgs and our other partners to answer this challenge and to honour our obligations to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (they’re funding this part of our work in return for our report). I’m aiming to have several options we can collectively look at by the end of March. But we still need to find the ideal site or sites.

Can you think of a site for our turbine(s)?
While we may find that one of our test sites is perfect for a turbine (wind testing and profiling is already under way) we don’t want to overlook anything. Do you have any ideas, or own any local site that you think would make the ideal site for a wind turbine? Such a site would experience lots of wind regularly – it’d be high and exposed. Ideally it would also be a visible reminder of what we’re aiming for – energy security and greater autonomy, and a reminder of how our consumption is linked to production. Being close to the local grid and close to existing roads is also a bonus – reducing the need for further infrastructural development.

BRCT Office Expansion
I’m very pleased to say we’ve recently welcomed Lynn Robberts to the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust office. Lynn is managing administration, assisting with fundraising and generally getting our office sorted for the next few months. It is great to have a keen and serious eye keeping things in order, and building up efficiency in our office systems.

Turbine Field Trip
There will be an opportunity to visit Pioneer Generation's 3 wind turbines at Horseshoe Bend (Central) early this year. For more information contact me by email.

To let the WEP know about possible turbine sites, or more information about WEP or BRCT initiatives, contact me at:, or call the BRCT office on 4822048. (There’s also plenty of information on the website - - or by joining the WEP email list).



December 2009, WEP

Distributed Generation / Renewable Generation
Distributed Generation (or DG) is the big theme this month. The Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust (the charitable trust supporting Transition Town initiatives and sustainability initiatives in Blueskin Bay) was successful in its bid to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's DG fund in November, and now we have the ability to build our business model. Over the next 3 months (with a pause for Christmas) we'll be working with the professionals at Polson Higgs and our partners to work out as best we can the financial feasibility of a community owned wind turbine. We'll also be working to find the appropriate business shape for community ownership and broad community benefit. Of course, the WEP office will still be engaged in all the other activities, but time will be limited for anything non-essential as we work hard to see if we can generate, own and manage our own electricity.

The DG fund from EECA helps us build the business case. After all, nothing can proceed if we can't ensure it makes good economic sense. Alongside the business case, we need to make progress on the technical front, and nothing is sitting still here either. The two current wind test sites (Mopanui Ridge and Double Hill Rd) are still being monitored, and data is being collected. A third site, with a taller tower, has yet to be selected but several are under consideration and the third tower will be in place before the end of the year. Alice Bowden, Nicolas Cullen's Masters student, is working from the Geography department with this part of the project and we're receiving valuable assistance from our partners at Windflow Technology Limited and PowerNet Limited. And as the project to develop our own community generation comes ever closer to fruition we will need to do more than just talk about it in the Blueskin News and at the odd public meeting. So in parallel with the business and technical feasibility work, we'll be working out a comprehensive consultation plan. Because while community support for this project has been fantastic to date, we can't assume that there won't be any issues and we want to ensure that everyone has the ability to participate in the development of this community project, and feels comfortable doing so.

A COGS grant this month too has given us funds towards developing the BRCT office admin, an increasingly important task as the workload increases. Thank you to all the applicants for the BRCT admin position – it is wonderful to have such interest in the community and exciting to see local employment options emerge in the sustainability sector – exciting at least for me! We're anticipating our office to be fully staffed again in the New Year, and although we haven't yet been able to establish this position as another long term position that is our long-term goal.

East Otago Collaboration on Solar
Since the very successful “In Transition” film premiere we've been maintaining the good level of dialogue with other East Otago transition and sustainability groups and this collaboration has taken the form of an application for funds to work together on a specific action: solar hot water. If successful, the WEP will collaborate with the Hampden Energy Group, Port Chalmers Transition Town and Transition Valley 473 (North East Valley, and some) to build a case for a broad scale solar hot-water system rollout. The funding applied for is limited however the momentum around this action is strong, so I envisage this becoming a serious effort in 2010, by hook or by crook.

Turbine Fund Launched
The 350 Spring Festival on the 24th of October was too good an opportunity to miss. We had our own little ‘Waitati corner’ beside the Weggies on Anzac Ave and were serenaded by the Waitati Militia Band on their way back from drumming up the mayor. So what was more appropriate than bring out the teapot for donations? While the funds raised on the 24th were only a tiny contribution towards the cost of a community turbine, it was a strong symbolic start. We’ll be designing our fundraising strategy alongside the business case, and now that the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust has been officially registered as a charity with IRD we have the ability to give donors the right to a tax credit. The Spring Festival was a very successful day of action on Climate Change, and a great networking day. Quite apart from being bombarded with interest and being engaged in stimulating conversations, I was left with a profound optimism in the ability of society to make a difference.

Reviewing our activities this year is a very satisfying, and nothing more so than the WEP Retrofit Rollout. EnergySmart, the main contractors, report that they’ve done all the Quality Audits, bar a handful of homes whose residents have proved very elusive. They’re now completing the small amount of remedial work, all in all a very successful end to 2009’s energy efficiency initiative. 2009 has also seen the WEP’s capacity grow, with a two-person office now a necessity to cope with the work, and the very strong support of a healthy volunteer community. As the year draws to a close, the initially slow and cautious development of the Renewable Generation project has just stepped up a pace, and like a slingshot, will propel us into 2010 with great momentum (check out ‘Blueskin 10:10’ as well). On behalf of the Waitati Energy Project and the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust I want to wish you a great holiday break. Remember to save some dollars if you’re going away by turning off your hot water and don’t neglect to make the most of our beautiful local environment and time with the family.

For more information about WEP or BRCT initiatives, contact me at:, or by calling the BRCT office on 4822048. You’ll also find plenty of information on the website ( or by going on the WEP email list.

November 2009, WEP

Our Enviroschools and GEOG 380
One of the most positive experiences I’ve had this year was listening to the intelligent and considered questions Waitati and Warrington kids’ put to the GEOG380 team at a recent visit to the Automatic Weather Station at the Double Hill site (Friday the 16th October). Geog students Seth, Lydia, Bridget and Renee made a special visit to Waitati to talk to both school groups about their wind testing and how it fitted in with the Waitati Energy Project. Our children are looking, listening and learning a lot and are deeply engaged in their community, that’s obvious. GEOG 380’s preparation (done during their study break, prior to exams) made for a very productive afternoon. They took the children through a variety of activities (who knows what a Kestral is?) and had children and adults alike enthused with activities and full of information on our local wind potential. Thank you GEOG 380!

Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)
The Finance and Expenditure Select Committee heard submissions on the Amended ETS recently, and I gave made a submission of behalf of the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust and the WEP on the 21st of October. (Contact me for written copies of the formal submission and verbal submission). Of particular relevance to the WEP was National’s desire to remove the ‘Household Fund’ clause (insulation fund – see details below). It was an odd experience, talking by phone to a group of people I couldn’t see, including a public gallery, on a dodgy phone line. But it was a very low-carbon submission and well worth it too, if feedback I received is any indication.

“In Transition” film premiere
The Dunedin premiere of “In Transition” in Waitati Hall on the 3rd of October was a fantastic event, with around 90 people attending, from communities along the Otago coast (from Hampden in the North to Brighton in the South). After the film, representatives of each Transition movement present gave a brief presentation, and then discussion continued over a drink and snack. Intended as a celebration of all that has been achieved so far, we’ve ended up with much much more. Renewing or instigating collaboration on important issues, getting opinions and catching up on news and events, strengthening the existing networks – all of these things were beneficial outcomes, and of course now we have this film available for loan (contact the BRCT office). After the film people were invited to jot down ideas under the subjects of ‘Food’, ‘Transport’, ‘Energy’, ‘Economy’, ‘Environment’, and ‘Other’ on several large sheets of paper on the wall. Most comments were received under the heading ‘Other’ but two comments on current local issues were received under the title of ‘Energy’ and are worth repeating: “I think it’s a waste of energy to knock the old Library down. Instead, also I think the old library is in a fantastic transitional place toward another function within the Waitati community. Save the old library!” wrote one person, while another wrote “No Stadium in Waitati (A&P grounds or otherwise)”. There were many other comments (transcript of comments circulated via the WEP email and online), but one more I want to highlight is this happy idea: “Street parties to bring neighbourhoods together. Then it can be developed into tool sharing, babysitting, seed swapping, and the list goes on...”. Yes, especially as we’re moving towards summer.

350 Dunedin
By the time you read this, the big 350 Spring Festival on Anzac Avenue Dunedin will have been and gone (it’s the 24th of October), but right now I’m looking forward to our involvement in this huge international day of Climate Action. A really impressive amount of work has gone into this by the local 350 team, and of course the 24th is just a date – there is still all the work to do to encourage our negotiators to try to achieve something substantial at Copenhagen: the space for action on stopping runaway climate change is just getting smaller.

Retrofit Quality Assurance
On the 22nd of October Energy Smart have only 45 QA audits to complete for WEP, with very few (and only minor) problems found which are being rectified as they proceed. Many thanks to the Energy Smart team who have gone over and above the letter of their contract to ensure a quality job, in what was an incredible achievement within a very short time frame. We’re expecting all QA work to be done by the end of October.

Retrofitting Insulation
You may be interested to learn that in the Amended Emissions Trading Scheme bill, National has proposed removing the Household Fund clause (negotiated by the Greens with National to get insulation into NZ households). This doesn’t mean the current subsidies for insulation will disappear overnight, but it does mean that they might disappear in 2011 – affecting of course an invigorated industry gearing up to insulate all of New Zealand, but more importantly dampening the momentum to make all NZ homes healthy and warm, and New Zealanders better off. If you want to find out more about these or other things, you can contact the WEP at:, or by calling the BRCT office on 4822048. You’ll also find plenty of information on the website ( or by going on the WEP email list.

October 2009, WEP

Community Owned and Managed Wind Power
The 17th of September’s Public Meeting on developing our own wind turbine for Waitati was a very successful evening, although we received a number of apologies/regrets, due to illness, double booking, general exhaustion (cured, I’m sure, by the ‘Bit of a Do’ two days later) and a relatively modest attendance. GEOG380 student presenters Seth, Ned, Matt, Lydia and Bridget seemed to relish the informal setting, and demonstrated great oration skills, presenting accessible technical data with regulatory explanation and answering questions generously. I’m impressed by their engagement with our project and the heart and soul they’ve put into it. Largely through their enthusiasm we’ve been able to start real data collection, and now with Hikurangi funding the WEP we have the means to build extensively on all that.

Alice Bowden, Nicolas Cullen’s MA student will follow Geog380’s excellent work, monitoring wind flow over the next year, and employing extensive data collection techniques to build a very robust wind profile for Waitati (a 10 metre tower with staged monitoring, intensive weather balloon release). With University of Otago support we’ll get a comprehensive Waitati wind field data beyond anything commercial evaluations could provide.

Since my trip to Wellington mid September I’ve been working on a bid to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to secure funds to proceed with the community turbine project development. We’re now in the challenging transition between ‘feasibility’ and ‘project development’, and EECA support would enable us to manage many of the hurdles. In conjunction with the EECA bid I’m talking with our friends and working on more formal relationships: we’re now signing an agreement to share information with Windflow Technology (NZ designed and manufactured mid-scale turbines), and our good relationship with PowerNet, the company who manages our local grid will become a more formal agreement. Powerhouse Wind’s ‘Thin-Air’ prototype also helps us understand more about our local wind resource, and discussions with Harbour Wind – a community company working on Renewable Generation on the Banks Peninsula – is helping sketch out the options we have for community control to give the best local outcomes possible. There’s no shortage of stuff to do, and all this support is fantastic.

GEOG380 and Enviroschools
Seth, the GEOG380 student coordinator, has prepared some material for our local Enviroschool students to discover more about our weather and the work of geographers. The visit with Waitati School last month had to be cancelled because of a sudden downpour but we’re rescheduling this month ideally with both Waitati and Warrington schools, and I’m looking forward to see what our young minds make of our renewable generation initiative and the steps towards it.

WEP Retrofit Update
EnergySmart are still doing Quality Assurance (QA) work on the insulation retrofits – checking each install. On Friday 18th September they’d completed 122 QA’s and found 6 that needed some minor finishing off – a very low rate, but valuable to discover and fix. They now working on the Hampden area houses and then will be back in the Blueskin Bay area. Meanwhile people are still signing up to the new scheme by the bucket load – which is good as we upgrade the housing stock, but there still seems to be a gap for those on lower incomes.

Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust office
The office is back to one occupant now, as Karan has left to pursue her other career. Nevertheless, I’m not intending to fall back into my old disorganised ways and now have the benefit of some of the new systems that we were establishing. As a consequence there is a position available again. We’re seeking someone with a passion for sustainability issues and plenty of initiative, skilled in Microsoft office products (computer work). This position is currently tied to our available funding for it and as such is most suitable for someone in a transition back to work. If this sounds like you, please get in touch.

Coming up…
“In Transition”, the Dunedin premiere of the film explaining the development of the Transition Towns movement, will take place in Waitati Hall on Saturday the 3rd of October. This is shaping up to be a great celebration, with transition/sustainability groups represented from Hampden to the Peninsula, and everywhere in between. The 24th of October is an International Day of Climate Action, and the WEP will be participating with the Weggies, in the big “350 Spring Food Festival” on the 24th in the Octagon, organised by the ‘Dunedin 350’ group, a dynamic, local youth led part of the global movement to bring carbon emissions down. If you want to find out more about this or other things, you can contact the WEP at:, or by calling 4822048. You’ll also find plenty of regularly renewed information on the website ( or by going on the WEP email list.

September 2009, WEP

Renewable Generation
The blades are finally turning on developing renewable generation (RG) for Waitati and Blueskin Bay. In August a Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust community visioning workshop on RG opened up strategic avenues; Windflow Technology site assessor Lindsay Eaves visited the existing wind measurement sites and to discuss working together; the Hikurangi Foundation confirmed funding support for our RG initiative; and by the end of the month Waitati School children will have discovered more about our weather and it’s potential from the Otago University Geography 380 group (who’ve been monitoring wind flow and solar potential around Waitati). On the 17th of September (just before the ‘Bit of a Do’) GEOG380 will present their wind flow results in a big public meeting in Waitati Hall and we’ll all get a first real taste of the task ahead of us. Make sure you’re there!

Hikurangi Support
Hikurangi has confirmed my salary for 12 months with ongoing assistance in order to help get our Renewable Generation initiative into the air. Establishing a community owned and managed wind turbine won’t be a simple task, so part of my work will involve developing an ‘operations manual’ to help other communities along the way and learn from our mistakes (as if…). Hikurangi support also confirms us as one of six ‘Climate Change Hubs’ around NZ, and I’ll be attending a Hui in Wellington early September to work through our hub role and meet the other Hikurangi hub people. Excting times!

With Karan Snow now as the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust office administrator, we’re finally getting the office in order. Gone is my ad-hoc system: instead we are filing correctly, accounting precisely and consolidating office process. What this means in real outcomes is greater effectiveness in acting, communicating and maintaining momentum. There’s not yet an answer-phone, however a lot of background work is going into structuring resilience in the way we get things done.

WEP Retrofit Rollout Wrap-up
A trickle of enquiries have come it from people who got an application in and didn’t hear back from EnergySmart. Our Rollout has ended, but you’ll still be in EnergySmart’s system and they’ll be offering you the current EECA offer as they work through the huge influx they received after the Green/National energy efficiency package was announced. Essentially, with the last minute rush of applications, and the requirement that 80% of the retrofits go to Community Service/Super Gold Card Holders, there were a few who missed out, both because of the number and the required percentage. As the WEP Retrofit got going the contractors took on the task of deciding ‘who’ and ‘when’ and it often revolved around who was home when they called. The many of you who received a retrofit will know: it was extremely quick and effective. The audit of properties to ensure the work is to EECA standard is ongoing, and for those who missed out, EECA’s new subsidy programme is up and running. We’ll be posting information on our website about the current programme, but questions you might ask of the providers are:
1. What experience have you got?
2. What insulation products are you using, and what is the performance guarantee of those products?
3. How long will it be, from when I make an application till the work is done? Will the application guarantee the work is done (if it is practically possible)?
The new EECA subsidies are: Community Service Card Holders get 60% off insulation and then $1200 off of a heating appliance if wanted; Grants for non-community services card holders is 33% up to $1300 inc GST for insulation and $500 towards a heating appliance.

We’re here to offer whatever we can in helping you make the most of the new subsidies, even to financing advice, and we are very keen to encourage you to insulate, for the immediate health, economic and energy benefits, and to help our communities reduce our CO2 emissions. In fact, once you’ve saved dollars through reducing energy loss, why not put the same amount aside to put into solar hot-water, and reduce your emissions and energy use even more!

Contact the WEP at:, or by calling 4822048. You’ll also find plenty of regularly renewed information on the website (, (including EECA’s link), or by going on the email list.

Windflow site analyst Lindsay Eaves gets some images of potential site 3, while OU Geographers, Seth, Lydia and Alice look in with wind in their faces. Photo supplied by the WEP.


August 2009, WEP

Wind Power
Quick reflexes was all that saved an OU Geography lap-top from oblivion when a strong gust blew it off the top of the box it was sitting on, on Wednesday the 22nd of July. Seth and Ned, two of the Geog380 team, along with Masters student Alice Bowden, and Techie Nigel, were at both Waitati sites to download data. At site one, near Mopanui, we were picking up gusts at over 9 metres per second during the download, and it looks as if there’s an average of around 6 metres p/s over the test period. Alice will maintain the monitoring of the site while the Geog380 team will compare data from other monitoring stations. Early results are looking very good (and the wind was extremely invigorating). When course commitments are over Geog380 will be coming out to Waitati to present the full results, so look forward to a windy and eventful evening in September.

Lindsay Graham (of the Renewable Generation Team) and I went to both sites, and we’ve learned of a couple more potential wind turbine sites. We also did a drive-by of the end of the old Waitati water pipe (the micro-hydro initiative), but a key problem around access has emerged so while we firm up options we’ll also be looking at other sites for micro-hydro. Lindsay has been driving the dispersed Renewable Generation initiative, and is in discussion with suppliers of photovoltaics particularly. We’ve yet to develop an economic model to make this available to the whole community, though that is the goal.

In Renewable Generation there are two main goals: building greater energy security and resilience into the system for our communities, and establishing an income stream that can be returned to support community initiatives (ecological and social business). And yes, we’d like to make lines charges more equitable, reward those who are efficient, etc. Right now we’re working on finding ways to do that.

Further Support
The Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust (BRCT) has just secured new funding for an Administration Manager role to support the WEP. This is an exciting development, and I’m looking forward to us making headway on Renewable Generation in the latter part of 2009. This is further valuable support from the Otago Community Trust, who have provided key assistance enabling me to continue to put my energy into this role and, with the MSD, is ‘Taskforce Green’ funding.

As always, the Otago Energy Research Centre is continuing to offer great support. By the time of this publication we’ll have had our ‘Synergia Workshop’ on Renewable Generation, hosted by the BRCT in Waitati hall (29th July), facilitated by Paul Stevenson, Synergia Director, and made possible by the OERC. The idea here is to draw together a small number of people from the web of local sustainability networks to work on the challenge of getting a community turbine up and running. It’ll be filmed and documented, and more importantly we’re seeking to develop a coherent path forward to help achieve the goal of community owned and managed Renewable Generation.

WEP Retrofit Rollout News
Work done within the WEP Retrofit Rollout is still being checked to ensure installation was done correctly and any faults rectified. It is anticipated that all checks will be completed soon.

There was a last few week’s flush of applications to the WEP Retrofit Rollout, so the contractors were left with an overhang: too few days and too many houses still to do. As a result a small number of households who put in applications missed out on the limited offer. However Jasmine at EnergySmart is now able to progressively put those applications into the new retrofit pile, meaning that all WEP applications will carry a different code but will automatically be eligible for the new subsidies (Community Service Card Holders get 60% off insulation and then $1200 off of a heating appliance if wanted, while grants for non-community services card holders is 33% up to $1300 inc GST for insulation and $500 towards a heating appliance).

It has been a real pleasure working with the team at EnergySmart and Aotea Electrical Southern and we’ve developed a range of capabilities around making houses warmer and healthier and more economical to run. Comments back from Blueskin and Dunedin residents have been overwhelmingly positive but we know that the task is still not complete and we’re looking at ways of continuing to build community energy efficiency, and reducing energy demand in sustainable ways. Even if you missed out on the WEP Retrofit offer, don’t hesitate too long, 60% or any subsidy is well worth it, economically, and in terms of comfort and health.

Contact the WEP at:, or by calling 4822048. You’ll also find plenty of regularly renewed information on the website (, (including EECA’s link), or by going on the email list.

GEOG380's Ned, along with MSc student Alice, and techie Nigel download data from the weather station at Site One near Mopanui. Photo by the WEP.


July 2009, WEP

Rounding up the Retrofit Rollout
Even since before the Budget insulation has been in the news and now that the WEP Retrofit Rollout is winding up it’s great that a new nation-wide retrofit programme is being established. The whole WEP Retrofit Rollout process has been very rewarding (378+ applications!) and nothing beats the appreciation expressed by someone whose health and budget has improved dramatically with the insulation retrofit. It’s not something that can be easily explained, it really has to be experienced, but an insulation retrofit in the middle of winter really is instant gratification. A big thank you to all who have shared the retrofit experience with us: feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. As you can imagine, the last weeks of June have been pretty mad, and a final round-up will only be possible once all the dust has settled (end of July).

The new subsidies from the 1st of July mean one third (up to $1300) of costs covered for all New Zealanders wanting to retrofit insulation, and up to 60% of costs for Community Service Card Holders. There is an additional $500 subsidy for a clean heat source (further details can be found on our website, or call the WEP).

Renewable Generation
Let’s imagine that the current wind testing (at sites on the ridge below Mopanui and off Double Hill Rd) gives results showing we have the perfect wind profile for a 500 kW wind turbine. Where to from there? At our June 17th OERC-WEP meeting Bob Lloyd, head of Energy Studies at the University of Otago was very clear about the immediate necessity to construct renewable generation. Essentially, Bob argues, as we enter Peak Oil we’re entering an ‘energy crunch’. To build wind turbines and solar panels you can’t rely on wind turbines and solar panels: they have to be built now using oil and gas (in fact they had to be built 20 years ago). In 30 years the world will have half the easy energy we have now and the climate change challenges along with population pressures will further complicate an already very difficult predicament: how to build infrastructure with even fewer resources and many more demands on what we have? Bob offers a clear rational voice when it comes to formulating action on renewables.

In NZ we have the best possibility of anywhere in the world to get enough renewable generation up and running and maintaining a sustainable way of life, but only if we act quickly. Could we do it in Waitati and in Blueskin Bay? OK, say the tests are in, and the reports are good. Where to from here? The site: some express concern that a turbine might become a lethal obstacle for new populations of sea-birds the eco-sanctuary may wish to introduce to Blueskin Bay (can they dodge trees in the wind at night? Could they dodge one turbine with slow blades?). How would we ensure the gains would be shared equally, and how would we pay for it anyway? Would we go for a second hand turbine or buy NZ made, such as the Windflow 500? These are all questions to be addressed, and over the next few months the WEP will be collaborating with our partners and knowledgeable individuals to formulate some social business ownership and management models for renewable generation. We’ll also be talking with suppliers about our potential turbine needs and the sites, and we’ll seek to open up the discussion about the merits or otherwise of a community wind turbine.

In other renewable action, closer modelling of micro-hydro has revealed less potential than originally thought (we should have clear information on what we’re doing here in July), while Lindsay Graham is talking with suppliers of photo-voltaics and solar hot water units for local grid integrated generation (and reduction of demand): the questions here are, do we have the demand for bulk purchase, and what would be the cost per household? Again, if we do this collectively we may be able to use innovative social business models to secure funding for this initiative. Our renewable generation team is working on solving these questions and we have the partners to support our efforts, so if you have a passion for problem solving or a technical skill and would like to play a part in getting the blades turning, the turbine spinning or capturing the solar energy, please get in touch.

Contact the WEP at:, or by calling 4822048. You’ll also find plenty of regularly renewed information on the website ( or by going on the email list.

A Windflow turbine, image courtesy of Windflow NZ.

June 2009, WEP

Renewable Generation is the theme this month, along with the wild weather welcoming winter in, and energy efficiency through retrofitting making its benefits felt.

On Thursday the 21st May a small intrepid group took advantage of a pause in the snowy deluge to put up the first weather tower. Nicolas Cullen, from the Uni of Otago’s Geography Dept and his intrepid GEOG380 students, (Brigitte Allen, Lydia Perkins, Ned Wells, Renee Richardson, Charlotte Evans, Mattew Curran, Seth Gorrieand and Alice Bowden, a Master’s student), were supported in this epic (considering the weather) by the WEP’s Carl Scott. The site is on Marie and Graeme Bennett’s land, and wind, solar and temperature measurements will be recorded for a year, with the information analysed firstly by the GEOG380 students and then by Alice to develop a model for renewable generation, and to appraise the suitability of the site for a wind turbine. The second test site is still waiting for it’s wind monitor. Exciting stuff!

On the same day, Chris Young and I had a meeting with Terry Jones and Lloyd Williamson of PowerNet, with an eye to working together to use transmission lines to feed into the grid or distribute locally generated electricity. We came away from that meeting fully charged with enthusiasm. And in Micro-Hydro generation we have a great deal of support for our community model (from the University of Otago and the College of Engineering, University of Canterbury), with the DCC holding the key and discussions with local landowners on the agenda. Of all the generation projects, this is the one (with one or two more ingredients) that we could put a clear timeline on.

Generating is one thing, distributing it is another. Lindsay Graeme in the Renewable Generation team is working on a model of a local integrated grid, with each house having an import/export meter and an inverter, and households charged for the energy they use and credited for the energy they feed back. This is a variant of the bulk-purchasing model proposed by Jeanette Fitzsimons at last year’s energy forum, and is actually quite technically simple we’ve been told by PowerNet.

‘Thin-air’ at Hagen and Sabina’s property is working well, and it is a delight to see the asymmetrical whoop whoop of the single blade from afar. We’re aiming to log all this fascinating story on the web in time. All is GO on the Renewable Generation front!

Retrofit Rollout
On the 22nd of May around 210 homes had been scoped and insulation retrofit measures installed on 115. This month the WEP Retrofit Rollout will end (by 30 June), and the pace will increase throughout the month. A local team of retrofitters is now on the EnergySmart staff, so look out for Digby, Gerry and Tom if your house is being retrofitted. Aotea Electrical Southern are now also contracted to deliver some retrofits, to make sure we get as many done as possible by the cut off date, and it is great to have them on board. In terms of Green Job Creation, the WEP Retrofit Rollout example has been very worthwhile, with 30 something new staff employed at EnergySmart to make it happen.

If the informal reports coming back are any indication, the rollout has been a huge success and the WEP will be preparing a report for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority on the pilot experience (this was a ‘one-off’ funding model), and encouraging its continuation. By the time you read this, the Budget will be out and rumours are circulating that the Greens have worked with National to boost funding for insulation (‘Green Jobs’). So don’t give up if somehow (?!) you missed hearing about it, or just missed out. We’ll be trying for more.

In other news, in May I gave two presentations on the WEP at the University: a Geography Seminar and a lecture to Geography216 students. Rosemary Penwarden prepared for the WEP a thorough submission to the Otago Regional Council (Transport Strategy) on Transport, viewable at our website. Another meeting of the Otago Energy Research Centre/Waitati community liaison group in anticipated in coming weeks, date to be confirmed, and I’ll be talking some more about the WEP at the Dunedin Pecha Kucha 2 event on Wednesday 10th June (doors open at 7.30pm, start 8.20pm) at the Otago Polytechnic. Details at:, or from Paul Smith, Dunedin Fringe Director.

Please, get in touch with the WEP at this address:, visit the web-page: , or importantly come to the WEP events/meetings, advertised by subscription to the WEP list and on the main notice board when in the hall.

Scott Willis




May 2009, WEP Column

WEP Retrofit Rollout

First frosts! Yes, don't worry, the WEP retrofit rollout is happening. I've been fielding enquires about if and when, and can say that after some frustrations seemingly created by the organisational requirements for such a rapid rollout, its all speeding up. Just keep an eye on activity around the containers of insulation material stored in Waitati. If you have put in an application, be prepared to make some quick decisions. You'll have to pay $30 on the initial visit, and then pay the 20% cost before the retrofit can happen. Make it easy by clearing access to all areas: you may lose storage but you'll gain dramatically in household energy efficiency. You can pay in several
ways: in cheque or cash on the day if you've let the contractors know (when you confirm); directly to the scoper when you receive the initial visit; by direct credit to EnergySmart's account; by cheque in the post; by any form at EnergySmart's Dunedin offices. The sooner you pay, the sooner the retrofit will happen!

As I write, one Waitati resident is employed and two more Blueskin residents are due to be employed by the contractors to build the retrofit teams up. I'm hoping they'll become our local retrofit experts once this rollout is over – available for people unable to take advantage of this retrofit rollout.

It is not too late to put in an application. There is no guarantee you'll be accepted, but it is still worth putting it in. A number of the houses done so far are smaller than the average, meaning we may get more bang for our buck! You can still find application forms at Blueskin Bay Library, Waikouaiti Library, Blueskin General Store, by emailing the WEP, or by calling EnergySmart on 0800 777 674.

Powerhouse Wind Turbine

The exciting news here is that the Lobitz-Brueggemann family, with Dave Littleton's help, have successfully installed PHW's unique and innovative 'Thinair' single blade turbine on their property in Waitati. It is too early to give any results on performance, though not too early to express an opinion on aesthetics: it's beautiful!

Bill and Wayne of PHW are keen to fine-tune their prototype and Hagen, with his expertise and passion, is actively participating in PHW's development and testing of the machine. The PHW team has invested virtually all in this project and it is both ambitious and pragmatic: a cutting edge design for small-scale generation in NZ's variable wind environment. Hagen has plans to generate up to 80% of the household's energy needs in terms of household energy and transport, helping recover installation costs, and he now has the ability to do so. It is
exciting to move beyond words and into deeds, and to begin to see what can really be achieved. As soon as things have bedded in the WEP will co-ordinate with Hagen, Sabina and PHW a site visit for interested members of the community, so please get in touch if you'd like a closer look!

Community Scale Generation

Site visits to establish the best location for community scale renewables by OU students (to monitor wind flow around Waitati) should have happened by the end of April and by May towers should be in place. Alice Bowden, a masters student in the Geography department, is intending to use the towers to conduct long term monitoring and assess the potential, while a number of other Geography students will be installing the towers and conducting a range of measurements. If you would like to get involved with the renewable generation side of the
WEP, please get in touch.

You can contact us at this address:, visit the web-page or importantly come to the WEP events. So wrap up, or retrofit, and keep warm till next month!

- For clickable links and colour pictures, visit the Blueskin News website:

April 2009, WEP Column

We may be entering autumn, but that doesn’t mean things are shutting up shop on the energy front. Don’t miss the Waitati Energy Survey feedback event in Waitati Hall at 7.30 on the 23rd of April (more below). And the WEP is now looking intensively at new funding options as we’ve just had the sad news we missed out in our bid to the Sustainable Management Fund. What this means in concrete terms is that in the short term we scale our ambitions back to what can be achieved on mostly volunteer labour, but since much has already been achieved there’s no real need to feel too despondent. I’m receiving positive support from our main partners in response to this news, and can assure everybody that the two core and active WEP initiatives (retrofit rollout and renewable generation) will not suffer, while other things such as the development of a Transition Plan/Local Energy Strategy and a big Simple Energy Solutions competition are still happening, or in our sights.

WEP Retrofit Rollout
The big thing this month of course is the WEP Retrofit Rollout. By the time you read this in print, the retrofitting will have begun, but as I write in late March, I can only confirm that contracts have been confirmed and signed, allowing the hard work to begin. And begin it will! Because of the ambitious nature of this rollout (large number of homes within a short timeframe), the pre-project stage has been a little complex, but I’ve been impressed by all partners in getting this thing rolling.

Here’s what’s happening: EnergySmart (the retrofit contractors) have been compiling the applications, and in collaboration with the WEP an ongoing retrofit rollout plan is constantly being elaborated (which houses, where). Essentially we’re using preset criteria (social priority and geographical zone) as well as order of received applications. The retrofitters first contact households who’ve made applications to make a time for a scoping visit. The house will be scoped (householders pay $30) and householders confirm (or not) the next retrofit stage designated by the scope. At this point, householders will know exactly how much their 20% cost will amount to, and will have several days to decide, or arrange a loan (from WINZ, the Credit Union, or elsewhere). To keep admin costs down and the retrofit process rolling along, EnergySmart are requiring your 20% cost paid upfront.

Retrofits will begin (or will have begun by the time you read this) in Waitati, followed by the larger Blueskin Bay area, then Waikouaiti, then ‘Transition Valley 473’ (inner suburbs of North East Valley, Normanby, Mt Mera, Pine Hill, Liberton, Dalmore & Opoho), until resources are exhausted. From initial discussions estimating 260 retrofits, the contract for funding that the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has agreed with the Otago Regional Council for this project is for approximately 170 homes (final numbers will only be known on completion, as no two houses are the same). However if all rolls out smoothly and quickly we will have an opportunity to apply for further funding. I don’t want to offer false hope – we’ll almost certainly have 170 applications in by April (not bad since application forms were only issued on the 5th of March) – however if we’re full up this time, with names still on file we’ll be well prepared if we get a chance to continue. The WEP is also offering to facilitate unsubsidized retrofitting for those who require it. For any information please email the WEP or call me.

Waitati Energy Survey
Remember the recent Otago Energy Research Centre’s survey? I’ve seen the raw data and it is both surprising and fascinating to see the practices and habits that have been laid bare. The data (and the comments scrawled in the margins) will be presented in an easily digestible and engaging format by OERC researchers, and we’ll get an opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions and more (Waitati Hall at 7.30 on the 23rd of April). The usual refreshments and occasion to chat will follow. This will be a wonderful opportunity to glean an objective perspective on the Waitati Community, so mark it on your calendar.

Renewable Generation
What I have to report on this front would fill a whole column, so look out for more details next month. However, Otago University students will be doing site visits during April, with wind monitoring masts to be in place next month, and we’re collaborating with the DCC on another renewable generation project, while a whole host of other conversations with interested parties have been profitably initiated. The Powerhouse Wind prototype is about to be installed and I’m looking forward to Hagen’s impressions and the first results. This project is breaking new ground in more ways than one.

You can join the email list at this address ( : please note, the WEP email address has changed to allow me to better manage the quantity of correspondence), visit the web-pages ( or importantly come to the events publicised here and on local notice boards.

Scott Willis
Tel: 4795327/4822249


March 2009, WEP Column

Have you heard? The Great Retrofit Rollout is happening! We’ve partnered up with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to do a rapid rollout of household insulation retrofits in the Northern Districts from March until the end of June, 2009.

This truly is the big news this month, and will be the priority WEP focus for the first part of the year. If you haven’t signed up already, get in now! You won’t get a better offer to make your home warmer, healthier and cheaper to heat.

I was invited up to Wellington by EECA (12th of Feb.) to give a presentation on the WEP and to meet the people I’d mostly only known via email before. It was an incredibly productive day, with all of our initiatives receiving a boost, but none more so than the retrofit campaign.

We’ll now be working with EECA to retrofit over 200 priority households in the Northern Districts between March and June. ‘Retrofit’ means: ceiling insulation; under floor insulation; damp proofing; hot water cylinder wrap; hot water cylinder pipe lagging; door draft excluders and 4 energy saving light bulbs. I can’t tell you yet whether there’ll be any funds to assist with replacing dirty fires. EECA will pay 80% of the retrofit costs and households will pay 20%. In terms of real money, we’re talking in the region of a householder contribution of $300 for a partial retrofit, to about $600 contribution for the full retrofit in an average sized house. We’re currently seeking ways to give households certainty on cost while ensuring the contractors get paid for work they do, and making this as fair as possible.

The initial notice of this went out on the WEP email list, and we’ve had a fantastic response already. However we still need more, so spread the word throughout the Northern Districts. We’re compiling a register of interest (email to with ‘retrofit rollout’ in the title line), and we need name, address, telephone, email, and please if you’re comfortable doing so, let us know if you’ve got a Community Services or Super Gold Card or are eligible for one. We have to ensure transparency and accountability, and this register is just a way of ‘fast-tracking’, because we’re doing a rapid rollout – all retrofits will need to be completed by July.

Essentially, we’re focussing on improving household energy efficiency beginning with the hub of Waitati and the broad zone of the Waitati Energy Project (the close Blueskin Bay area, including rural and residential Waitati, Evansdale and Warrington, and the larger Blueskin Bay area including Purakanui, Evansdale again, Seacliff and Karitane). Beyond that, we’re reaching into Waikouaiti to the north and North East Valley (the ‘Transition Valley 473’ area) to the south. This is because it gives our providers clear data – results can be more easily confirmed than if the same amount was spread over a larger area. It is also because with the networks we possess we’re reasonably confident we can make this happen within a short time frame. And finally, it is a lot more efficient for the contractors to work through each village street by street than the broad brush approach, and we’ll therefore get more for the money.

We’re holding the first public meeting Thursday, 5th March, 7.30pm in Waitati Hall to answer any questions and to really get the ball rolling. Registrations of interest will have to be translated into completed applications and we should see retrofits begin very soon, all going well. Please get in early so we can ensure you don’t miss out!

In other news, we’ve got a Renewable Generation Advisory Team within the WEP now, and there are a number of exciting initiatives that are quietly chugging along, after diverse meetings, discussions and new relationships being established. We’ve begun work on the big Simple Energy Solutions competition and need a couple more dedicated souls to ensure all keeps running smoothly. But most of all, please help us ensure we get really good coverage, particularly of households in need, for the rapid Retrofit Rollout over the next 4 months.

You can join the email list at the address below, visit the web-pages ( or importantly come to the events publicised here and on the noticeboards. To talk about the Retrofit Rollout by telephone, call either Geraldine (4822517) or Scott (4822240), but better yet, come to the public meeting or email (

February 2009, WEP Column

I hope you've had a good start to the New Year: for the WEP it's been
a busy but productive one! First, however there are a couple of things
from 2008 to catch up on:

1. Waitati Energy Survey: The University of Otago still wants survey
forms back – so please fill in what you can and return your form if
you have it floating around the house. Prizes for the early returners
have already been distributed: congratulations to Ronda Trent (1st
Prize), Louise Burnside (2nd Prize) and Cushla McCarthy (3rd Prize).
Meanwhile I've seen some preliminary results: for example, 70% of
Waitatians want to reduce energy consumption, either to save money or
to conserve the environment – that's great news!

2. Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust: the trust had a meeting on
the 18th of December, 2008, and began fine-tuning the strategic plan.
The good news for the Waitati Energy Project is that the BRCT's focus
at present is in supporting the WEP, which leads me up to the present…

At the tail end of last year, and intensively this year the WEP has
been putting together a funding bid to the Sustainable Management
Fund. We believe we've put together a really strong bid this year,
with our partners (the Otago Energy Research Centre, the Energy
Efficiency and Conservation Authority and Powerhouse Wind) all signing
up for a series of events and activities, and outcomes we're planning
for the next year and a half. When we actually sat down at the end of
last year to assess what had been achieved, we were surprised at how
long the list of accomplishments was, and humbled by the support
received. And it was clear that the momentum had built up to take a
wider approach than just building awareness. This year we'll also
tackle demand more forcefully, increase energy efficiency and begin
developing local generation options, and we will keep you all informed
in upcoming issues of 'Blueskin News'.

The first exciting thing is the progress being made on Powerhouse
Wind's prototype installation. The Waitati site chosen by PHW is
Sabina Lobitz's and Hagen Brueggerman's property at Dons Creek. Hagen
has the bit firmly between his teeth, and we'll be seeing the blade
spinning before winter, I'm betting.

The WEP will be meeting with DCC staff in February to talk about local
micro-generation collaboration, and later in the year there'll be
students measuring wind flow on at least two sites around Waitati.
Look for them on the horizon-line.

Our focus is much broader than just Waitati however, so if you receive
this 'Blueskin News' you're in our zone of activity: we're collecting
names of people interested in bulk insulation purchase, in
retro-fitting and more generally from people wanting to work on making
the transition to more sustainable lifestyles and communities.

You can join the email list by emailing or
visit the web-pages ( or
just come along to the events publicised here and on the noticeboards.
Enjoy your summer, and solar hot-water!


January 2009 (NO PUBLICATION)

December 2008, WEP Column

In the first week of December there’s a Waitati Energy Project event in Waitati Hall. ‘Waitati Research Feedback’: a Public Meeting on Thursday the 4th December will be held straight after work, from 5.30 – 7pm in the hall. Researchers from the Otago Energy Research Centre will present final and interim research results from the research projects done or ongoing in Waitati.

There have been (or are) four different research projects in Waitati this year:
1. “Is Small Beautiful? Attitudes towards community owned wind energy in Waitati” is the title of a dissertation by Matthew Hoffman, who conducted 13 face-to-face interviews in Waitati. This is a really interesting study because the WEP has been operating for over a year now, but despite well attended public meetings, successful expos, support for initiatives, and a big email list, we can’t assume that all of Waitati is supportive or interested. We’ll discover much more about ourselves through Matthew’s work. And what would getting a locally owned and operated wind turbine running involve?
2. “Visualising Home Energy Efficiency” is Jess Hugh’s Research Project. Jess followed the implementation of the government’s Home Energy Rating Scheme in Waitati. Her study took place through an interesting period – remember the drama? – and should answer some of the questions aired locally about the usefulness of energy ratings in general. (I’ll have the last of those HERS certificates on hand as well).
3. Claire Freeman will present on “Children and Transport”: research on children's travel patterns in their day-to-day lives - how they move around (on foot, bicycle, Mum's car etc). Children at Waitati School participated in this study, which includes a number of schools around the Dunedin and Claire will talk about her findings including differences between Dunedin locations. There are big implications in this, for children, parents and road users.
4. The “baseline survey” is something Martha Bell is coordinating for the Otago Energy Research Centre. Janet Stephenson (OERC convenor) will be on hand to explain the survey, which has only just begun. It has gone out to 178 Waitati households and in the survey we householders are asked about how energy is used in our homes and our lives, we’re asked our views on energy-related issues, how we learn new ideas, and if/how we are making changes in our energy use. This piece of research is very valuable for the Blueskin area because it will give us hard data and help the WEP design actions in and for the community. Please complete the survey! (the OERC is putting completed surveys in for a prize draw, with prizes to be distributed just prior to Christmas).

Following the presentations we’ll have some cups of tea as usual and a brief WEP get-together to begin forming a more focused steering group/committee for the WEP. This will be a short meeting of interested people. So if you have a burning desire to get more involved, this is the moment!

Library expansion
The Waitati Energy Project is keen to support the project team for the Blueskin Bay Library Expansion to make the new structure energy efficient, innovative and local. I’m excited about our community expertise (engineers, architects, builders, pragmatists) working with DCC Energy Manager Neville Auton, and the DCC architect in a partnership as the library is such a crucial local institution and a public building reflecting our community.

Remember the Bulk Insulation Purchasing offer (the WEP offer to negotiate and coordinate a bulk purchase if there is the interest locally)? Well, to date very few people have registered their interest so we’re just keeping the door open. I know it is hard to think ‘insulation’ when the weather is so lovely, but it really is a bit late when the house is freezing in winter, or costing a fortune to heat while the children can’t get rid of that hacking cough. Yet how can the WEP make it easy and attractive to make our houses more energy efficient, healthy and cheaper to maintain? This is a question we haven’t yet got a full answer for but we’re working on it!

Finally, if you want a bigger overview of the WEP than I can provide in one column, and even if you are on the email list, our web-pages are a start. For the WEP, go to: and follow the WEP links. And, as usual, if you want to keep regularly up-to-date please contact the WEP at: or 4822249.


November 2008, WEP Column

Whew, what a month! October was as full as Santa’s sack for the Waitati Energy Project. In the first week confirmation of the ‘Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust’ was received from the companies register. This trust will provide not only a legal structure to facilitate WEP activities, but also other sustainable/transition initiatives in Waitati and Blueskin Bay.

By the second week of October all the Home Energy Rating Scheme audits had been completed, and on the 16th of October formal presentations were made to the recipients.
Gerry Thompson and Therese hosted the informal evening at their retro-fitted Harvey St. property. Glenn Murdoch of Sustainable Design explained the process, findings and limitations of the audits, and Solis Norton who works with Lloyd McGinty of Transitionz Group answered questions (Glenn and Lloyd had contracts from EECA to conduct the audits). It was fascinating to compare house ratings, and look at what constituted difference, and why some ratings were remarkably similar in dramatically different homes. It’s clear that as well as being useful tool for buyers and sellers, a HERS audit gives some clear direction on making cost and energy effective change in terms of our houses. The measure doesn’t address the way we ‘use’ a house (curtains, etc) but does provide hard detail on a house’s functionality, and makes recommendations. So it treats the property as independent of its owners and makes an objective statement that will ultimately become an important factor in the house market and an important tool in making upgrades or in building new structures.

A week later (22nd Oct) we held an Energy Forum (‘Rising Electricity Prices: Town in Transition’). Jeanette Fitzsimons, our special guest speaker, arrived from Central Otago to visit the Waitati Energy Project and first toured Waitati’s highest HERS rated house. There she also met the Powerhouse Wind team, viewed components of their ground breaking single blade turbine and watched a short presentation.

The forum began at 7.30. Jeanette provided a simple breakdown of big forces and local impacts. She made essential connections between the emerging global recession and its deeply rooted causes, i.e. the hard limits we are hitting in the natural world – oil, water, fisheries, grain, minerals, along with the dangerous instability of a rapidly changing climate. Yet she reminded us that we are not powerless, and gave examples of where we could all take effective action.

It was an extremely lively evening with the amusing (a story of a man who wanted to remain off the grid, but had to fight the company to do so – and got some copper in the process), the outraged (why would National proclaim it wants to repeal the Green Homes legislation and the 1 billion dollar insulation fund for NZ’s housing stock when we know we urgently need to give NZers warm dry and healthy homes?), the pragmatic (‘what is the best solar hot water set up and how can it be made affordable?’), and the serious (‘what can I do, and what can we do now?’).

The research relationship between Waitati community and the Otago Energy Research Centre, coordinated by the Waitati Energy Project featured strongly, as the implications of the partnership were made explicit: knowing ourselves better, and becoming empowered to act on that knowledge; becoming an example. Ian Buchan (owner/manager of Power Options, specialising in installing distributed and off-grid generation systems) argued that by getting our own households and lives sorted we’d solve the big problems, Inga Smith (Co-Chair of Solar Action) mentioned the multiple arenas of action, and emphasised that we are all political creatures and surprisingly powerful at that, once we become aware of our own power, Janet Stephenson (convenor of the Otago Energy Research Centre) emphasised the power of community, in knowledge combined with action, and Jeanette Fitzsimons (Greens Co-Leader, and Government Spokesperson on Energy Efficiency and Conservation) stressed that knowing and understanding the possibilities and limits we’re presented with as individuals, as a community group and members of community, and as political citizens of New Zealand, were all important for gauging effective action.

Many ideas and initiatives were aired, and one that particularly captured the imagination of all present was the suggestion to form a power buying cooperative, and negotiate a bulk purchasing price with a supply company, offering moderated demand in return for a special relationship. As the forum concluded, no-one was left in any doubt of the benefits of adding insulation to our houses (some if none, more if some) or of installing solar water heating. DCC Energy Manager Neville Auton sketched out some exciting energy possibilities, perfectly in tune with WEP objectives, and ideas were sparking over cups of tea and biscuits. About 100 people attended and we’re left with a surplus of topics and pragmatic actions to go on with!

So what’s up this month?

First and foremost is the Otago Energy Research Centre’s ‘Energy Survey’ – on behaviours and attitudes towards energy use. Please please please complete the survey: only the person in charge of the survey will see any personal information (if any). It will be anonymous but will give us tremendous knowledge about Waitati community and ensure that future actions aiming at energy security will be well targeted and effective. Preliminary results of the survey will be presented to the community at a meeting in December. Towards the end of the month we’re also planning a meeting between Waitati residents and OERC researchers as part of our ongoing community-research dialogue, and all Waitatians are invited (please join the WEP list for updates).

So there is plenty bubbling just below the surface and if you want to keep your finger on the pulse please contact the WEP at: or 4822249.

October 2008, WEP Column

Green Homes

Our household has just benefited from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s (EECA) subsidized insulation programme (we received an installed roof-lot of Novatherm insulation, plus draft tape and some low kW bulbs). I can enthusiastically agree with Warm Homes Novatherm winner Rhys Owen: this stuff makes a dramatic difference! Our house, with the 13 year old batts in the ceiling now overlaid with R3.2 Novatherm, is remarkably warmer, taking less to heat, and holds the heat longer. The retrofit happened while the weather was still cold and the effect was instantaneous. One of the key advantages of this type of insulation is the thermal bridging it provides: the Novatherm was rolled out across the rafters and slows heat loss through the wood itself, as well as very effectively insulating the ceiling. For more information on EECA funding, go to: or call 0800 749 782.

On the insulation front, the $1 billion green homes fund that the Green Party secured during the Emissions Trading Scheme negotiations to insulate NZ’s housing stock will help us all as power prices rise. This package will make a real difference by reducing total household energy use (and carbon emissions), but it will also improve health. The fund is set in legislation and a new government can only change it by repealing legislation.

EECA will manage the new fund and details will be announced before the election, so keep your eyes and ears open. Meanwhile for those who want to act now, there are several options. EECA has funding available for low and medium income home-owners’ retrofit, and solar hot water installation (as above). But for those who are engaged in retrofit right now, and who don’t fit or who don’t find the EECA schemes appropriate, now is the time to consider a bulk insulation purchase agreement. The Waitati Energy Project has initiated this possibility for Novatherm insulation, so this is a call for interest. If we can get 10 households to agree to purchase Novatherm insulation in a managed collective agreement prior to the end of 2008, the WEP will do its best to negotiate an attractive price via bulk purchase: please register your interest with me. Each year a house remains poorly insulated becomes money poured down the drain, compromised health, and excessive energy use.

Home Energy Rating Scheme

All is GO! (Just when the HERS audits seemed to have died). Need a reminder? The WEP had an agreement with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) for 21 Home Energy Rating Scheme audits to be conducted in and around Waitati. The audits are a national standard evaluating energy the efficiency of dwellings, modelled via a standardised system. But the EECA assigned auditor to Waitati threw it in at a bad moment, and the audits were not completed.

Government Spokesperson on Energy Efficiency and Conservation (and Greens co-leader), Jeanette Fitzsimmons got the HERS audits back on track, once she heard of our situation. Within a week auditors Glenn Murdoch of Sustainable Design, and Lloyd McGinty of TransitioNZ Group Limited had been contracted by EECA to complete the audits, thanks to Ms Fitzsimmons intervention.

By the time you read this, all audits should be complete. Both Lloyd and Glenn and their teams are motivated and efficient. Lloyd commented that “Alot of
thought has gone into passive solar design for some houses while others
have had little choice”, so I’m looking forward to hearing their impressions once all 21 are complete. We’ll be calling a meeting of all HERS recipients to receive their certificates and talk with the auditors to wrap up this aspect of the project at a date yet to be set in October. Expect to be contacted if your house was on the list.

To register for Bulk Insulation Purchase (Novatherm), to be involved in the Waitati Energy Project or to join the WEP list please contact me by calling 4822249 or emailing:


September 2008, WEP Column

The Energy Expo last month (Sunday 10th August) was a resounding success: that’s the consensus of organisers, participants and from comments received. One of the ways I personally experienced the success of the day was when I went to buy some lunch (cheerfully provided by the Waitati PTA) at around 3 o’clock, only to discover it had long run out. Luckily however there was plenty of hand-made ice-cream being churned out so I didn’t go hungry.

The format of the day, with speakers, exhibitors (local and commercial) and activities seemed to work well. Niki Bould of Port Chalmers won by popular choice the Energy Efficiency and Innovation Competion with her draught stopper (the prize of organic meat and super-size fresh vegetables was donated by local WEGgies Dennis and Tracy Kyle). Adults and children alike kept an eye on the Olympics (as long as someone was pedalling Nathan Clarke’s bike generated TV – thanks Meiling and Nils), while others made bags and draught stoppers (thanks Niki and Jenna), visited the various stalls, sampled Malgosha’s ice-cream, listened to speakers, quizzed Bill Currie about Powerhouse Wind’s single blade turbine, trialled an electric bike, or just soaked it all up.

Thanks to: all our speakers (Chris Perley, Neville Auten, Mike Goldsmith, Sean Connaughton, and Maureen Howard); all the exhibitors (Powerhouse Wind, Browns Bikes, Yunka Fires, Burford Tanks, Otago Insulation, Placemakers, Power Options, the Solar Shop, Centameter, Hybrid House, Whare Mahana, Jens and Adrienne Rekker, Waitati Edible Gardens, W3 Rideshare, Orokonui Ecosanctuary, DCC, and the Green Party); our MCs’ (Nick Prosser and Anisha Hensley); the Waitati Militia; the Waitati PTA. Thank you to all those from Waitati to Warrington who put in such an effort to organise/set-out/welcome/clean-up/unpack and pack, etc. Please forgive any omissions.

Alas, the electric car didn’t make it to Waitati (something to do with the extreme cold and the inability to rapidly recharge the battery), so that will have to be for another day, and our Otago Energy Research Centre (OERC) speakers couldn’t make it either but the day was very full as it was.

What is coming up? The next thing Waitatians will notice will be a household energy survey arriving in the mail from the OERC. You may have spoken with Martha Bell (who is coordinating the survey) at the Expo about the survey. If we can get a really good response to the survey it will be a great source of information for the Waitati Energy Project and initiatives we undertake. It will help us focus our energy and will also help us secure funds for targeted projects, so please look out for it, and please complete it and return it.

Finally, some corrections: we received great coverage in the ODT on the Friday just prior to the Expo, but as always there were some inaccuracies. Some of the photos were incorrectly labelled: the image of insulation being installed in a roof is not at Mark and Rayna Dickson’s place, but is Whare Mahana installing Novatherm in Rhys Owen’s house in Warrington (Rhys won the Warm Homes Info Evening Prize of a roof-lot of ceiling insulation from Novatherm, and installation from Whare Mahana). I was pictured in front of Jenny MacDonald’s turbine which was installed by Ian Buchan of Power Options: this is not the turbine that will power Waitati and nor is it Powerhouse Wind’s single blade turbine, and I was just a prop! However the publicity was excellent and certainly contributed to our very successful day.

If you want to receive more detailed updates or be involved in the Waitati Energy Project please contact me to join the WEP list by calling 4822249 or emailing:


August 2008, WEP Column

This month the big event is the Waitati Energy Expo. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of the woodwork for the Energy Efficiency and Innovation Competition. Get thinking and get it to me! I’m also looking forward to seeing what’s available in the commercial and professional presentations: contrary to what you might believe, I don’t ‘swim’ in energy efficient ideas everyday and I really enjoy the opportunity to find a whole lot of things together in one space, and also the sparks of ideas that jump about when all these people are together. We’ve got a great range of speakers lined up throughout the day on diverse topics. The Waitati PTA is putting on food and drink to keep us fed and watered and there will be entertainment of all sorts (the list just keeps on growing!). We haven’t got everything yet, so if you have an idea or suggestion then let us know. But bring yourselves, bring your family and bring your friends, and make it a great Waitati Energy Event on Sunday the 10th!

Remember the Home Energy Rating Scheme audits? They were donated by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority to the Waitati Energy Project. Well that story has become a little complicated. Bob Draper, the auditor contracted by EECA, resigned just as the period for the audits was to come due it appears, while the EECA audit funding is rumoured to have had a time-limit on it. So the audits may not necessarily be rolled over and at present we are left with two completed audits out of the total of 21 we were accorded, and a series of general recommendations. Bob made recommendations following all the visits he made that were to become fully blown HERS audits. I am still trying to get to the bottom of all this, as there have been personnel changes in EECA as well, and no doubt there will be an update in the next edition of the BN. We certainly appreciate the work put in so far however the possible loss of all those audits … Nevertheless, it is making one student’s life more interesting: Jess Hughes has been researching the design of the HERS audits, so we’ll have her report to look forward to.

There’s more research going on and two bits I will mention briefly here. The big one is a whole Waitati ‘Baseline Energy Survey’, funded and run by the Otago Energy Research Centre. This will evaluate exactly where we are (in terms of energy) right now. The details of that are being worked out as I write, but expect to be contacted in one form or another and asked to take part. The survey will provide us with valuable information on the Energy needs, forms and use in our community, and from this we’ll be able to shape future actions and projects, so the more accurate information we can provide, the sharper our focus can be. The other research you may have heard about is being conducted by Matthew Hoffman, a student in the OERC. Matthew is conducting a survey in Waitati on attitudes to small-scale wind energy. Part of his motivation is the ‘Get Smart, Think Small’ report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (and independent body) that promotes the adoption of local energy systems and recommends that community led initiatives could be aided by government targets and incentives (something to think about when politicians come door-knocking). Matthew’s research will give us insight into the depth of opinion in Waitati on small-scale wind and help gauge receptiveness to the idea, were we ever to go down this path as a community.

That’s more than enough from me for now. Keep warm and make sure you come along on Sunday 10th August. You can contact me and join the WEP list by calling 4822249 or emailing:


July 2008, WEP Column

This month the big event is the Waitati Energy Expo. We're looking
forward to seeing what comes out of the woodwork for the Energy
Efficiency and Innovation Competition. Get thinking and get it
entered! We're also looking forward to seeing what's available in the
commercial and professional presentations: contrary to what you might
believe, we don't 'swim' in energy efficient ideas everyday so it's
good to have the opportunity to find a whole lot of things together in
one space, and also the sparks of ideas that jump about when all these
people are together.

We've got a great range of speakers lined up throughout the day on
diverse topics. The Waitati PTA is putting on food and drink to keep
us fed and watered and there will be entertainment of all sorts (the
list just keeps on growing!). We haven't got everything yet, so if you
have an idea or suggestion then let us know. But bring yourselves,
bring your family and bring your friends, and make it a great Waitati
Energy Event on Sunday the 10th!

Remember the Home Energy Rating Scheme audits? They were donated by
the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority to the Waitati Energy
Project. Well that story has become a little complicated. It appears
Bob Draper, the auditor contracted by EECA, resigned just as the
period for the audits was to come due, while the EECA audit funding is
rumoured to have had a time-limit on it. So the audits may not
necessarily be rolled over and at present we are left with two
completed audits out of the total of 21 we were accorded, and a series
of general recommendations. Bob made recommendations following all the
visits he made, and these were to become fully-blown HERS audits. I am
still trying to get to the bottom of all this, as there have been
personnel changes in EECA as well, and no doubt there will be an
update in the next edition of the BN. We certainly appreciate the work
put in so far. However, the possible loss of all those audits . . . .
Nevertheless, it is making one student's life more interesting: Jess
Hughes has been researching the design of the HERS audits, so we'll
have her report to look forward to.

There's more research going on and two bits I will mention briefly
here. The big one is a whole Waitati 'Baseline Energy Survey', funded
and run by the Otago Energy Research Centre. This will evaluate
exactly where we are (in terms of energy) right now. The details of
that are being worked out as I write, but expect to be contacted in
one form or another and asked to take part. The survey will provide us
with valuable information on the Energy needs, forms and use in our
community, and from this we'll be able to shape future actions and
projects, so the more accurate information we can provide, the sharper
our focus can be. The other research you may have heard about is being
conducted by Matthew Hoffman, a student in the OERC. Matthew is
conducting a survey in Waitati on attitudes to small-scale wind
energy. Part of his motivation is the 'Get Smart, Think Small' report
from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (independent
of the Government) that promotes the adoption of local energy systems
and recommends that community-led initiatives could be aided by
government targets and incentives (something to think about when
politicians come door-knocking). Matthew's research will give us
insight into the depth of opinion in Waitati on small-scale wind and
help gauge receptiveness to the idea, were we ever to go down this
path as a community.

That's more than enough from me for now. Keep warm and make sure you
come along on Sunday 10 August. You can contact me and join the WEP
list by calling 4822249 or emailing:

July 2008, Blueskin News: WEP Energy Advice, by ex-HERS auditor Bob Draper

Household Energy: Recommendations for Blueskin Bay households

Having visited a number of properties within Waitati and seen a
varying number of styles of houses, here are some simple

In terms of heat losses, various figures are quoted for losses from
different parts of houses. The following show some of the different
figures that are quoted from various sources:-

Ceiling/roof 30-42%

Walls 18-25%

Floors 10-14%

Windows 12-31%

Drafts 6-12%

Roof insulation

In terms of what provides the best value, the first and most obvious
place to insulate is the top of the building, that is the ceiling or
roof. Heat rises and so putting a lid on is the obvious, best option.

Older ceilings that have either no insulation, displaced materials
such as paper or the original required minimum of about 70mm of pink
batts will benefit from adding additional insulation. The thicker that
you can afford, the better the resulting insulation and the longer
that heat will be retained in the building. This is an important thing
to remember. Heat is like beer, you only rent it! Regardless of the
level of insulation in a building, sooner or later it will find a way
out. The idea is to slow the process down and to limit the quantity of
heat that has to be provided in order to feel comfortable.

Where there is already some insulation inside a roof space this will
normally be laid in line with and between the ceiling joists. Draping
new insulation across the original materials at right angles will
create a further useful air space and provide better insulation than
packing it on top and in the same direction.

Where people have cold water tanks in loft spaces it is important to
leave the ceiling beneath the tanks uninsulated. This allows a small
amount of heat to warm the water within the tank and help to prevent
it freezing. Cladding cold water tanks with insulation tied around
them, fitting an insulated cover to the top and insulating pipework
within the roof space can also help minimise the risk of freezing

Floor insulation

With solid floors there is nothing that can be done structurally to
insulate it after construction. The only option with existing solid
floors is to insulate people from the floor by use of carpets and
carpet underlays. People wear shoes and slippers to help prevent their
feet from coming into contact with cold surfaces because body heat
will be conducted away very quickly.

With suspended timber floors there are a variety of ways in which they
can be insulated to help reduce heat losses and also to help prevent
cold air from being drawn into houses. Older tongued and grooved
floorboards, or even worse square edged floorboards, can allow cold
air to enter buildings.

Rigid expanded plastic materials such as Expol (this is not the only
one available) can be easily fitted in place on a DIY basis. Care has
to be taken that gaps are not left around pipes and services and it is
also worth taking a plan to show where such services are located
before fitting the material. Such materials are either an interference
fit or possible securing clips or nails may be required to prevent
them falling loose. If such fixings are needed, care must be taken to
ensure that they are well clear of services such as pipes and electric
cables. If in doubt, consult a plumber or electrician.

Other options for floors include foil sheets or composite foil and
insulation products. Foil on its own is probably the least favourable
option but foil composites incorporate bulk insulation are also
available and these also act as a vapour barrier to prevent floor
timbers from becoming damp. When adding insulation materials regard
must be had to ensuring that necessary ventilation is not obstructed.
Under floors, adding insulation also provides a useful opportunity to
check that ventilator grills are clear so as to allow cross
ventilation of the floor space.

Draft proofing

Flexible seals are readily available to draft proof doors and most
types of windows. Double hung sash windows can be the hardest to deal
with because over time components such as parting beads become loose
and the sashes no longer slide as easily as they should.

For most doors and windows compressible seals with self adhesive
backing strips are easily fitted to rebates. For harder to deal with
windows such as sliding sashes, seals that have a plastic or metal
carrier strip and which are fitted to frames so as to press against
the sashes are a better option.

Curtains and windows

Curtains which incorporate a thermal lining will help to retain a
considerable amount of warmth inside a building, particularly when
they are mounted underneath pelmet boards that extend back to the
wall. These may look a little old fashioned but it helps to prevent
air currents behind the curtains.

Single glazed windows can also be improved by means of products such
as 3M 'Window Warmers'. These are packs of clear plastic film that are
attached to frames using double sided adhesive tape. The film is then
heat shrunk to a tight finish using a normal hair dryer. Some windows
can be harder to treat using this system where there are inadequate
rebates capable of providing adhesion, loose or flaking paintwork or
perished surfaces.

The overall effect of better curtains and plastic films such as
'Window warmers' can be to bring single glazed windows almost up to a
double glazed standard.

Hot water systems

The most obvious low cost method of making the most of the hot water
system is to insulate exposed pipes. Whilst this is obvious in
relation to hot water pipes, insulating cold pipes can also be an
advantage in helping to prevent frozen pipes as well as reduce the
amount of heat that cold water entering the hot water system.

Wet backs provide a useful amount of cheap heat that would otherwise
be wasted. In some instances it may also be possible to fit one or
more radiators on to a wet back system but this is obviously
introducing higher costs because this would be beyond DIY.

If people have older hot water tanks with little or no insulation,
fitting them with a hot water cylinder jacket can help save a
considerable amount of heat. Such jackets are easily fitted and
secured with straps. For an uninsulated cylinder, such jackets
represent the second best cost saving after ceiling insulation.

Wasting heat

People can also save on energy costs by changing their thinking
towards how they use it. Boiling a full kettle for single cup of
coffee is an obvious example. Leaving lights on within unattended
rooms can also use additional energy. This has to be modified with
some cautions, however. Switching lights off where adequate lighting
is required for safety can be short sighted. Similarly, switching
fluorescent lights on and off in the same way as an incandescent bulb
can also be counter productive. This is because fluorescent lights
will use more power to get started and less to keep going. It is
usually reckoned that a fluorescent light will use the same amount of
energy to get started as it will to run for about 15 minutes.

Another area where people tend to waste heat is in relation to
over-ventilating. This is normally seen in relation to wet areas such
as bathrooms where windows are left open for the whole day in order to
remove moisture generated from showers and baths taken in the morning.
Whilst it is important to remove water vapour to minimise the
potential for condensation, there comes a point when heat is also
being lost excessively. This means that condensation will occur at a
lower temperature because the drop in temperature results in a higher
dew point for the same level of moisture inside the building.
Mechanical fans fitted with a time overrun can improve this situation
but will involve cost. Simply remembering to close the door, open the
windows, shut them after twenty minutes and leaving the door open
thereafter to allow warmth from the rest of the house to enter will
achieve the same result.

Heating systems

Traditional heating systems in our part of the world usually involve
burning solid fuels such as wood or coal. This can be a messy process
and whilst wood, coal and multi-fuel heaters can produce huge amounts
of heat, they tend not to be as easily controlled or as convenient.
Bringing fuel in and removing ash, as well as the dust that is
produced in the process, make such heating less convenient.

Increasingly people are wanting heating sources that are more
controllable and convenient to use. Cost is also an increasingly
important factor.

Sales of heat pumps have soared as people look for more cost effective
solutions that overcome the problems of the traditional methods.
Unfortunately, heat pumps are not always a satisfactory solution.

In houses which have high ceilings, large rooms and low thermal
insulation, heat pumps can fail to generate sufficient heat to achieve
comfortable living conditions. Poorly sited units can also create air
movements which can feel cold and drafty to occupants. The advantages
of heat pumps lie in their ability to deliver more energy than they
require to run but in extremely cold conditions they can also deliver
considerably less heat.

It is therefore important to ensure that the heating systems that are
used, and which can be afforded, suitably match the building type.
This means seeking the right advice before making decisions as to
heating type.

Heat transfer systems can serve a useful purpose where there is excess
heat capacity within a single are. Solid fuel heaters very often
generate far more heat than is necessary for the room where they are
located and heat transfer systems provide a useful method of
delivering that spare capacity to other areas within the house.

There is also an increasingly wide range of choices available for
direct ventilation systems that help to balance moisture levels within
a building, recover useful heat or deliver pre-heated air. The
application of these systems is also beyond the scope of this simple
advice and specialist advice will be necessary to help solve
individual problems.


For existing timber framed buildings in New Zealand there is no
reliable system available for installing insulation into wall cavities
that does not involve the removal of either the internal or external
skins. Whilst one company advocates the availability of injected
polyurethane foam, the Department of Building and Housing has a very
long list of reasons why this is inadvisable. Not the least of these
is the dangers of toxic, formaldehyde gas that is produced within
buildings over long periods of time after foam is installed.

Possibly the most practical, low cost advice that can be given is to
try and ensure that as much advantage is taken as possible of heat
from the sun. Where houses are subject to shade cutting back foliage
to allow sunshine to reach the house, and if possible to enter the
building, will add a considerable amount of free heat to be gained.
This is particularly true for houses that have what is known as
'thermal mass', i.e. concrete floors or similar that can be warmed up
during the day to give off heat over the evening. Drawing curtains to
allow sunlight in can help warm up solid objects during the day.

If anyone has any specific queries that they would like to ask, please
feel free:

by Bob Draper


June 2008, WEP Column

A Big Thanks to all who helped and offered prizes and expertise for
the WEP Warm Homes Energy Info Evening on the 12th of June. The
evening was a big success, with a full hall and though ironically it
was as chilly as hell, the consensus from people I've spoken to is
that the evening was very worthwhile. We'd like to design things that
work for everybody, so please send any ideas or suggestions to the WEP
or come to meetings. Specifically, without the voluntary effort of
people involved in the WEP (and who are often part of the other
voluntary associations as well) nothing could have happened. We have a
dynamic voluntary community and the more passionate people involved,
the better!

Our big sponsor, Novatherm, made the very generous donation of a
house-lot of ceiling insulation for the night's big prize. Whare
Mahana, contractors for EECA's insulation and efficiency schemes also
donated labour for the installation of the Novatherm. Throughout the
evening there were giveaways, generously supplied by Placemakers, who
also provided props for the talks. Just about everybody walked away
with something, from energy efficient light-bulbs to draught tape and
switch timers, while Rhys Owen of Warrington walked away with the
night's big draw: 120 square metres of roof insulation plus
installation. Our speakers, Energy Auditor Bob Draper, DCC Energy
Manager Neville Auton, and Bruce Ritchie of Whare Mahana all covered
different bases: respectively energy audit techniques; everything on
household energy; and subsidies for improving household efficiencies.
It was a very full evening and everyone I've spoken to seems to have
been motivated to make some energy change or improvement in their

What we're starting to do now is to consolidate the Waitati Energy
Project. With the current and proposed activities of the WEP, and our
requirements (mainly funds and legal framework), consolidation is
necessary. At our last meeting a feasibility study of community scale
and ownership of generation was proposed. Add that to the ongoing
maintenance of relationships with external partners, relationship
building in terms of new projects, co-ordinating community and
research and sharing news, and we have a lot on, without even getting
to new projects and events. It is time to see if we can get a body
together, and win some funds both for administration and specific

Coming up is another big event in August. On Sunday 10 of August we
are hosting an Energy Expo at Waitati Hall. Invitations to exhibitors,
participants and local innovators will soon be going out, so if you
have any requests, suggestions or ideas please contact the WEP. Mark
the date in your diary!

It has been a busy month. Our Otago Energy Research Centre links are
really producing fuel, with a number of research projects moving along
nicely. I promised more on this last month but it will have to wait.
And Waitati was on TV! (well, indirectly at least). On Sunday the 15th
of June, TV3 aired a piece under 'Business News'on Powerhouse Wind's
single blade turbine and featured an interview with Waitatian Hagen
Brueggerman. No space here to elaborate but you can find it on the TV3
website, looking under business news – look for 'innovative design'.

I hope you are keeping dry and warm. You can contact the Waitati
Energy Project at: or call 4822249.


May 2008, WEP Column

We need all the tips and advice we can get to save on heating costs this winter, and we need to make efficiencies all round as Peaking Oil causes the price of everything to rise.

With this in mind the Waitati Energy Project is holding a ‘Warm Homes Energy Info Evening’ for 7pm Thursday, the 12th of June. Make a note of this date! There’ll be something for everyone, and a BIG something for someone. Thanks to the generosity of NOVAtherm, we’ll have a house-lot (120 square metres) of insulation to give away on the night. NOVAtherm manufactures non-fibreglass polyester thermal insulation in Otago: it is local enterprise. The insulation has an extremely high R-value is used in EECA retro-fit programmes. Its BRANZ appraised and carries a 50-year performance guarantee, so whoever wins this will have a cosy house for a very long time! You can find out more about it here: .

To encourage warm ideas, conversation and participation, we’ll also have mulled wine, tea and coffee, and we’ve invited Neville Auton, DCC Energy Manager, and Home Energy Rating Scheme (HERS) auditors Bob Draper and Lloyd McGinty to speak. Bob and Lloyd have worked at Waitati assessing the energy efficiency of houses and will present the first few HERS certificates. We’ll also learn some general lessons about the state of our homes in Waitati. Placemakers Dunedin is also sponsoring the evening, with prizes and giveaways, and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority have donated thousands of dollars of energy assessments to the Waitati Energy Project. Later in July we’ll have a full Energy Expo day, but for now let’s make Thursday the 12th June a hot start to the Waitati Energy Project winter series.

Another event that may interest a number of you is the ‘Energy Efficiency Expo’ at Hampden, on the 2nd of June (Queens Birthday), 10am – 4pm. It looks to be a fascinating day – so I hope the Blueskin News gets to you and you hear about it before Queens Birthday! (Or you see the posters around Blueskin Bay).

Our other partners have not been idle either. Powerhouse Wind has just installed their first prototype at Sawyers Bay. Its now spinning in the wind, generating electricity and information and the testing process has begun. No firm date for their turbine installation at Waitati yet but the PHW team are planning a site visit soon. Researchers from the Otago Energy Research Centre meanwhile have approached us with several research proposals: a). Trialling an interactive kit for children, to encourage them to become more energy literate; b). Trialling the production of bio-fuels for Waitati needs in Waitati; and c). Surveying the Waitati community on attitudes to small and large wind turbines for local energy production. There’ll be more about these projects in the next edition.

Keep warm, and make sure you come along to Waitati Hall on Thursday the 12th of June. To go on Waitati Energy Project email list please contact me:



April 2008, WEP Column

Brrr! As winter approaches the focus is on keeping warm, and keeping power bills low too, as the price of energy (particularly oil) cuts deep via fuel, food and just about everything else!

Shortly after I wrote last month’s column I learned that the Waitati Energy Project missed out on the funding we’ve been seeking. Out of that disappointment came a number of very promising suggestions however. These leave us with plenty to work on. Most gratifyingly of all though, our partners – the Otago Energy Research Centre, Powerhouse Wind, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, the Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, and Sustainable Dunedin City – all want to continue their involvement in the Waitati Energy Project. There’s plenty to continue with.

In the meantime, there are a couple of things to report.

HERS audits
We are still in the midst of Home Energy Rating Scheme (HERS) audits. As we’re part of the national trial it all takes time. Initially the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) granted us 15 energy audits and as part of the ongoing appraisal of how that is going EECA has given us a further 6 audits, selected from all those who applied in the first instance. Thanks to EECA then, we’ve covered about 10% of Waitati households, and its not finished yet. Independently, a fourth year OU student from the Otago Energy Research Centre is doing a project on the design and effect of the HERS system and has been interviewing a number of HERS recipients to gauge their impressions. So in time I hope we get not just an evaluation of how useful HERS are for modifying energy use generally, but also specific ideas of how HERS have affected Waitati/Blueskin households in detail. We’ll be keeping the Blueskin News updated…

Leading edge technology in Waitati
Powerhouse Wind (PHW) are working to complete a functional prototype wind turbine, to be tested, all things going according to plan, at a site in Waitati from mid 2008. I’m really excited about PHW, not just because of their innovative single blade design. PHW is a small Dunedin company run by visionary innovators working to provide appropriate scale energy production and these guys really walk the talk. With the destruction of NZ’s manufacturing base through ‘Free’ trade agreements and business ‘rationalisation’, a small company creating a world-class cutting-edge design and model while doing it all in Dunedin deserves more than just our congratulations: they deserve as much support as we can give! These guys are proof that the ‘Number 8’ myth does have real substance to it and the only thing we will have to be wary of is becoming swamped as investors flock to Waitati to view the prototype (at single household scale) tested here in Waitati. Watch this space!

I hope you are managing to keep warm as the cold weather begins to bite. If you want to know more and get updates (in addition to this regular column), join our email list. To go on list (or if you have a specific question), please contact me:
Tel: 4822249

And to find out more about Powerhouse Wind, you can visit their website: , or just wait to see the wind turbine later in the year.


March 2008, WEP Column

Energy resilient community
Look out the window: if you could choose, where would be the best place to situate a village sized wind turbine with enough capacity to meet Waitati demand? (If you live elsewhere around Blueskin Bay, replace ‘Waitati’ with your community – the lessons we learn here will be transferable). What physical and legal structures would we need to build to make it happen? What else would help Waitati become autonomous in terms of energy? Why not put a turbine on the ‘Big Pipe’ to generate electricity? Is any of it even possible?

Early in March a small group of Blueskin Bay met with Otago University researchers to discuss collaborations between the Otago Energy Research Centre (OERC) and the Waitati Energy Project. It was the second meeting between community and university, and some of these questions were aired and discussed. While we may be able to answer all these, and similar questions ourselves, it will be much easier with outside input: then we can go from having answers to implementing solutions.

The university year is an odd measure, and always begins by being planned months or years in advance. It involves funds, students, and strategic direction. But the Otago Energy Research Centre (New Zealand’s leading ‘demand-side’ research centre) hasn’t been idle, and has designated the Waitati Energy Project as one of its two strategic research areas. What does that mean for us? Well, to be honest, it is hard to talk about specifics at present, since we’re only really kicking off the uni year and the OERC is still setting funding and research priorities, but one key thing to emerge from our discussions is an understanding that the research will not be ‘one-way’. Instead it will be applied research and will assist our efforts to become a more energy resilient community.

A key priority in that meeting was the development of a protocol between researchers and the community. There could be quite a few researchers wanting to work in Waitati, and we want it to be effective research we can use. In line with that we also talked about research ideas and a couple of these look likely to be put into action soon: watch this space for details.

Other Progress
The last column was all about the Home Energy Rating audits. As I write, most have been completed and all should be completed soon. At that point we’ll all have a clearer idea on how informative they are, and whether they are an effective tool to enable us to modify our demand and make our households more energy efficient. Personally I’ve found it really helpful to think about ways in which our own household can reduce energy consumption and we’ve begun some modifications already.

By April the Waitati Energy Project should know whether funds we’ve applied for to ‘super-charge’ the project will be available. In the meantime however we’re continuing in a sustainable fashion. If you want to know more, updates, in addition to this regular column go out on our email list. So to go on the email list (or if you have a specific question), please contact me:
Tel: 4822249


February 2008, WEP Column

There are many alternative ways of reducing energy demand. Most of them come down to individual choices we make in our households, or how we construct, renovate, and live in our houses. So it is hard to find a one size fits all that will reduce household energy use (and reduce the need for costly infrastructural projects, reduce our carbon footprint, etc...). Perhaps the answer then is not to find the single solution but to provide the context in which multiple, creative solutions can be found. This seems to be the path taken by EECA’s (the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) new energy rating scheme, HERS (Home Energy Rating Scheme). This is an NZ government initiative under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, which is led for the government by the Greens Co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimmons.

When I wrote last month’s WEP column I expected to be inundated with applications for a free HERS assessment. That I wasn’t provided a salutary lesson about just how difficult it is to change demand. Perhaps it also reflected how many people read the Blueskin News (!), how busy people’s lives are, how short notice makes it difficult to get people involved. I don’t know. But getting people to consume less, even when it is in their best interests and painless to do has always been a challenging thing. However since Jeanette Fitzsimmons and EECA had taken such an interest in the Waitati Energy Project (and offered us more than $5000 dollars worth of HERS assessments), it seemed foolish not to take full advantage of it. So mid February the recruitment drive became intense and by the time I had to send off applications to EECA there were a total of 27 applications (and more arriving).

A big thank-you then, to all who got in behind the HERS initiative and put names and details forward. EECA has now selected 15 households for free HERS audits out of the 27 households who initially applied (those households have all been contacted). Three registered Dunedin assessors will conduct the audits before the end of March. Those who missed out and any others will be offered the next opportunity. As anticipated, households represent a mix: some are interested in efficiencies and are willing act on information given, at least one is a landlord interested in providing a healthier and more efficient house for tenants, and some are selling their houses and may be able to use the HERS audit as an additional selling tool.

Now there is still the question of those who applied and missed out, and everyone else who wants to make energy savings, make homes healthier, more comfortable and less costly and generally reduce their carbon footprint. There may be further financial assistance for Waitati/Blueskin households wanting HERS assessments however we won’t know in what form until EECA has had an opportunity to see how well the first audits go. The WEP email list and next Blueskin News column will carry more details.

HERS, as a national standard will become increasingly important and useful over time. However it is a new tool, and a ‘soft’ way (of reducing energy demand), not a one-stop solution. As the Waitati Energy Project progresses we expect to facilitate a larger range of tools, not just to reduce demand, but also to produce energy, and build a more energy resilient community. If you want to be kept updated, go on the email list or get involved, then please contact me by email or telephone.



January 2008, WEP Column

Would you like a free energy audit of your property?

Over the past couple of years there have been a good number of public
meetings and workshops in Waitati with energy as a core focus (see
previous article in the December 2007 Edition of 'Blueskin News'). In
2008 a number of relevant and practical workshops are being planned as
well as pragmatic actions aimed at establishing a resilient community
energy system in Waitati.

The first deliverable action is a trial run of the Energy Efficiency
and Conservation Authority's (EECA) new Home Energy Ratings programme.
Through the Waitati Energy Project we've secured a limited number of
free energy assessments for Waitati.

Home Energy Ratings are designed to improve the energy efficiency of
New Zealand houses. It is like the star rating on appliances and is
intended to make owners and prospective owners of a property aware of
their home's energy performance. It's obvious that property owners
will gain a clearer vision of how efficient or inefficient their homes
are, and knowledge is power! – pity we can't burn it in winter. The
health costs of cold, draughty houses, for example, can be measured
against the cost of upgrading to a warm dry house, as can the economic
benefit of lowering electricity bills. And it seems reasonable to
accept that as the cost of energy rises over time, demand for homes
with a high value energy rating will rise too.

How does it work? According to EECA: "A Home Energy Rating is an
assessment of the energy efficiency performance of a home. It includes
the building itself, and the two biggest energy users in a home - the
room heating and the water heating systems. A qualified assessor
evaluates the home, then generates a report containing star ratings
showing the energy performance of the home, and professional
recommendations on the most appropriate actions to improve the home's
rating." Visit for more information.

The Waitati Energy Project has 15-20 assessments to give away. There's
a catch though: you need to meet EECA's criteria and provide some
information to go in the draw… Since EECA is providing the
assessments, they will make the final selection. They'll choose from
homes that are:

(a) on sale, or about to go on sale
(b) rental properties, or
(c) whose owners are interested, willing and able to make energy
efficient upgrades if advised to do so

If you meet one or more of the criteria, information you will need to
supply includes:
1 the number of bedrooms
2 the number of storeys
3 ideally, any house plans you have

Please compile all the details listed below and email/post to me at:
Scott Willis, WEP (Email:
scott.willis @ , Address: 31 Hill Street, RD2
Waitati) before February 7th.

Number of rooms
Number of storeys
Plans available?
Which criteria met?

The Waitati Energy Project is seeking funding support from the
Sustainable Management Fund for a whole bunch of further energy
initiatives, and we'll find out in March if we're successful, but
whether we are or not, 2008 is going to be a big year. Watch the
Blueskin News or join our email list for regular updates.

2007 Waitati Energy Project Columns in the Blueskin News

Follow the link: 2007 WEP Columns