Cutting-edge solar units to relieve farms, rural businesses

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Relief is in sight for farmers and other rural people suffering from electricity supply problems.

Electricity distributor Powerco has developed a cutting-edge unit called Base Power.

After last month’s storms caused massive damage to power poles and lines in the Central Plateau, Powerco provided five Base Power units to remote customers, giving them an uninterrupted electricity supply.

Base Power is an all-in-one system that generates renewable electricity from photovoltaic solar panels for homes, work places, small shearing sheds, dairy farms (supplements cowshed supply), and the likes of communication towers and back-country huts. Excess energy is stored in batteries, with a diesel generator providing back-up.

Powerco may provide Base Power units to some of its remote, rural customers. Base Power will be an alternative to electricity supply from the national grid, where the cost to upgrade the network and improve supply is not cost effective.

Powerco Electricity Commercial Manager Eric Pellicer said Base Power would offer peace of mind to some of the company’s most remote customers.

“We know that power cuts are disruptive for people and we know some remote rural areas are prone to repeated and prolonged power cuts. We see Base Power as a way to give our most remote customers a reliable power supply no matter the conditions, without having to rely solely on traditional power poles and lines,” Mr Pellicer said.

Mr Pellicer said the new units were likely to be installed on remote properties in Taranaki, Manawatu, Wairarapa, Waikato and Coromandel.

The new Base Power units are being constructed at a rate of two a month by Marton-based company, The Downs Group.

Powerco has initially approved the supply of 20 new units following a successful six-year Base Power trial in nine locations. The new units have been redesigned with high-tech specifications and to allow transport by helicopter to locations that are unreachable by road.

Base Power is easy to run and maintain – typically, units only require a top-up of diesel from time-to-time. Most Base Power units supply 230 volts at 50 Hz, which is the same as the national grid. This allows users to continue their lives normally.

Powerco is prioritising its own customers but will make some Base Power units available to outside clients, such as other lines companies.

Click here for the website which includes a Base Power video.


Kai Iwi farmers “100% happy” with Base Power

Farmer Hans Brink was overseas when devastating storms ravaged the lower North Island.

It was mid-2015 and Hans’ wife Michelle was home alone when the power went out on their remote property.

With a home and seven freezers to keep running, Michelle Brink had to rely on a small generator borrowed from a neighbour to keep things ticking over.

It wasn’t the first time. In 33 years of farming the 700 hectare sheep, cattle and forestry property, 50km inland from Kai Iwi, the Brinks had experienced power cuts of up to two weeks on several occasions.

Like many farmers, the Brinks had relied on kilometres of power poles and lines crossing land prone to slips, floods and falling trees. This meant electricity supplies could be disrupted without warning – especially in bad weather.

“When you’re at the end of the line like we were, you’re at the mercy of the whole grid,” Hans said.

The big 2015 power cut started on June 20, coinciding with some of the worst flooding on record in the Taranaki and Manawatu-Whanganui areas. But the Brinks’ electricity worries ended two weeks later when Powerco brought in a trial version of Base Power.

Powered by photovoltaic solar panels, with a diesel generator back-up and a bank of batteries to store excess energy, the Brinks are now able to reliably operate their home and five-stand woolshed.

Not having to worry about electricity has been liberating.

“We don’t even think about power anymore. Honestly, we can only say good things about the way Powerco has treated us. If people get offered one of these units they should go for it.

“It’s excellent. We’re 100% happy.”

Michelle and Hans Brink

Above: Michelle and Hans Brink with their new Base Power unit.


Base Power puts Marton on the map

A Rangitikei electrical contracting business is proving you don’t need to be big-city based to produce cutting-edge technology.

Powerco, New Zealand’s largest electricity distributer by network length (27,900km) has contracted Marton-based The Downs Group to supply 20 of its new Base Power units during the next 12 months.

The Downs Group Managing Director Robert Gunn said up to seven people were involved with building each Base Power unit – including manufacturing, painting, assembling, wiring, commissioning, software and paperwork.

The Group had employed three new staff, and an associated manufacturer had employed two more people – a big achievement for Rangitikei.

“The complete unit is manufactured, constructed and commissioned here in the Rangitikei. It shows that you don’t need to be in one of the main centres to do business using the latest technology,” Mr Gunn said.

“We’re proud to be able to employ local people and companies.”

Powerco Electricity Commercial Manager Eric Pellicer said The Downs Group had been chosen after a rigorous selection process.

“The Downs Group presents Powerco with an opportunity for an end-to-end solution from the design, through to installation and ongoing maintenance of the units,” he said.

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