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Making the most of windy Wellington

14 March 2014

Making the most of windy Wellington

Windy Wellington is providing the perfect backdrop for two postgraduate students from Victoria University to research the potential of wind power.

Daniel Akinyele and Hatem Alzaanin are part of a newly formed and rapidly expanding power and renewable energy systems research group led by Dr Ramesh Rayudu at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Daniel and Hatem are poised to raise the profile of the group’s work after scooping the only two available sponsorships to attend and present their research at the New Zealand Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition taking place in Wellington in April.

Dr Rayudu is excited two of his group will have a chance to present at the conference.

“It’s a great achievement for both of these scholarships to have gone to Victoria students—it shows we are becoming known as a centre of excellence in renewable energy and particularly wind power.”

Daniel, a PhD student originally from Nigeria, is researching the use of micro-grids in Wellington. A micro-grid is a small scale power generator such as a solar panel or wind turbine that could be located on residential or commercial buildings. They can be connected to the main network or operated independently.

Daniel is investigating how micro-grids can provide extra power to the network during peak times and act as a back-up source of energy should the main network go down after a natural disaster.

“In a major earthquake,” says Daniel, “Wellington could be left without power for days or weeks. If we had a network of micro-grids, the impact could be much less severe,” says Daniel.

The biggest challenge, however, says Daniel is making it attractive to home and business owners to install a small power generator such as a wind turbine.

“We may need financial incentives to help people cover the cost of installation,” he says.

Hatem’s research also recognises the need to make it easy for people to become more energy efficient.

Hatem, a Palestinian student in the final year of his Master’s degree, is looking at smart use of appliances to balance the fluctuating energy levels produced by wind. He says any solutions his research comes up with will only work if they are convenient for people to use.

One focus for Hatem is looking at how to run appliances in the most energy-efficient way.

“Freezers, for example, don’t need to be running all the time to keep food frozen. Domestic devices account for around 11 percent of power loads. Many people would be surprised at how much power can be saved by using appliances more efficiently.”

While both students’ presentations will focus on New Zealand, their research has the potential to also be used further afield.

Daniel, for example, is investigating how micro-grid technology could be used in less developed regions such as his home country of Nigeria where around 60 percent of the country does not have access to electricity.

Daniel and Hatem were selected by Transpower to receive scholarships to the New Zealand Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition which takes place from 14—16 April at Te Papa in Wellington.


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