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Powerco announces cutting edge energy technology for Whangamata

05 April 2019

Electricity distributor Powerco has unveiled plans for its Whangamata Central project, a multi-million dollar trial of cutting edge electricity technology, to support the coastal settlement of Whangamata, which can be prone to power cuts.

Whangamata Powerco Project

Whangamata Powerco Project"Our Community Board is delighted  to see this great initiative come to Whangamata to ensure our local businesses are supported," says Whangamata Community Board Chair, Ken Coulam.

Powerco Chief Executive, Nigel Barbour, said it will be installing a grid scale battery back-up system, paired with a large scale generator and bespoke network switching system, all designed to support supply of electricity to the Whangamata CBD in the event of a power cut on the 33,000 volt line supplying the town.

“Powerco is committed to being a reliable partner and the Whangamata Central system will allow us to test grid scale battery technology on our network in a way which supports the people and  businesses of Whangamata,” says Mr Barbour. “This is an exciting trial for Powerco and our expectation is that, once commissioned, Whangamata Central will significantly reduce the level of disruption to Whangamata CBD properties of any unplanned powercuts on the 33,000 volt line from Waihi and provide opportunities for further network innovation.”

Powerco General Manager Asset Management and Network Transformation, Ryno Verster, said the system being trialled has a range of possible applications but the primary benefit to customers in the area would be as a fast acting back-up power supply.

“Whangamata is supplied by a single 33,000 volt line running through some rugged terrain from Waihi and historically it has experienced damage from severe weather, tree felling and a number of other asset failures. When damage occurs to that line all power is cut to more than 5700 properties,” says Mr Verster. “Our expectation is that once successfully commissioned Whangamata Central will be able to rapidly restore electricity supply to around 1000 properties in the Whangamata CBD and continue to supply them while our field staff locate and repair the damage to the network.”

Mr Verster said the battery was capable of supplying the CBD area during peak business hours for a period of 1-2 hours and, when paired with the generator, could maintain that supply indefinitely as long as the diesel tank was kept fuelled.

Powerco has consulted extensively with the business community in the area over recent years, meeting with a range of stakeholders and attending meetings with Enterprise Whangamata.

“We are acutely aware of the impact power cuts have on Whangamata and particularly the economic impact to businesses during the holiday season and this project is expected to make a significant difference,” he says. “The line between Waihi and Whangamata has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment. However due to the rugged terrain and the exposure to severe weather the line is subject to a high level of risk and having a system like this in place is a first for Powerco which we believe will provide a step change in performance for the Whangamata CBD.”

“At Powerco we understand that many of the businesses in Whangamata generate 80 to 90 per cent of their income over the holiday season and so if we can minimise the risk and duration of power cuts, we minimise any adverse economic impact to the area.”

Powerco will not be revealing the exact cost of the project due to commercial sensitivity but Mr Verster confirmed it was several million dollars.

Details of which properties in the CBD would be supplied by the back-up system can be found on Powerco’s website here: www.powerco.co.nz/Whangamata

The project is expected to be complete prior to Christmas 2019.