Powerco welcomes BESS to the Whangamata community

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Powerco’s new multi-million dollar grid sized battery was officially opened in Whangamata today.

The Battery Energy Storage System (BESS), situated at Powerco’s substation just south of Whangamata, is a large-scale dedicated battery and bespoke generator with state of the art switching system to provide stand by power to the CBD.

Powerco General Manager Asset Strategy and Investment, Ryno Verster said Powerco understands that Whangamata needed a more secure power supply and the solution is a first for Powerco and a first for New Zealand.

“As far as I know this is the first time a large grid scale battery (2 Megawatt, 2 Megawatt-hour) has been used in this manner in New Zealand, to provide standby power to a community should there be a complete loss of electricity supply.”

Whangamata is supplied by a single 33,000 Volt line running through some rugged and environmentally sensitive terrain from Waihi.

“The line between Waihi and Whangamata has recently undergone extensive maintenance and refurbishment,” he said. “However due to the rugged terrain and the severe weather the line remains subject to a high level of risk. We believe the BESS will provide a step change in our network performance for the CBD,” said Mr Verster. 

“When damage occurs to that line all power is cut to more than 5700 properties,” he said. 

“The BESS will automatically fire up if there is a power cut in the bulk supply to Whangamata and will power up around 1000 properties in and around the CBD – essentially maintaining supply to the commercial heart of the town,” he said. 

“To achieve this, the Whangamata distribution network is automatically reconfigured into an islanded network.  When the main supply is restored, the network reverts back to its normal operating state.” 

“We have talked to the community extensively,” said Mr Verster. “We understand that many of the businesses in Whangamata generate 80 – 90 percent of their income over the holiday season and so if we can minimise their risk and duration of power cuts, particularly over those periods, we can minimise the adverse economic impact to the area and community.” 

The battery is capable of supplying the CBD, during peak business hours, for a period of 1-2 hours, during which time normal supply outages would often be restored. 

“For longer interruptions, when paired with the generator, we will be able to maintain supply indefinitely. 

“This is state of the art technology,” he said. “BESS has a range of possible applications we will investigate further in the future, but the primary benefit to customers will be a fast-acting back up power supply to the central business district. 

“We are proud to have created this innovative solution.  We are also excited about exploring the further opportunities and benefits that could be derived from the BESS for the Whangamata community.”   

“As an example of our future plans, we envisage cooperating with the community on schemes that could extend the reach of the BESS to larger parts of town, by managing demand when the main supply is interrupted. There is also potentially scope to work with local customers who generate electricity from solar PV systems, to store their excess daytime generation in the battery, and draw back electricity from the BESS after hours.”

“Lastly, we also look forward to applying some of the know-how that we’ve gained on this milestone project to improve supply reliability to other remote communities connected to the Powerco network.”


Powerco is New Zealand’s second largest electricity utility and gas distribution utility with around 1.1m customers (across 446,000 connections) connected to its networks. Powerco’s electricity networks are in Western Bay of Plenty, Thames, Coromandel, Eastern and Southern Waikato, Taranaki, Whanganui, Rangitikei, Manawatu and the Wairarapa. Its gas pipeline networks are in Taranaki, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Wellington, Horowhenua, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay.


For more information email or phone 06 968 4557.

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