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Engineers research for cheaper electricity on Stewart Island

UC engineers researching for cheaper electricity on Stewart Island

March 17, 2014

The University of Canterbury (UC) is investigating ways of providing the Stewart Island community with a renewable electricity system.

Stewart Islanders presently rely entirely on diesel generators and pay about 81c per kWh, about three times the price charged in the rest of New Zealand.

UC Civil and Natural Resources energy engineer Dr Ian Mason is modelling various combinations of wind, solar and hydro generation for the island.

He is collaborating with UC electrical engineering graduate and overall project manager Robin McNeill of Venture Southland.

"A electricity system utilising wind, solar and / or hydro resources, but initially retaining the diesel generators for back-up duties makes sense," Dr Mason says.

Diesel from the mainland costs about $500,000 per year. An undersea cable from the mainland to link to the national grid would cost about $10 million.

The wind resource on Stewart Island is expected to be useful and any micro-hydro generation would be valuable. While Stewart Island gets low sunshine hours compared to the rest of New Zealand, the level is comparable to parts of Germany and Japan which have extensive solar powered installations.

Detailed on-site monitoring to obtain design information will begin once resource consents are obtained.

Note: UC’s Civil and Structural Engineering has been ranked 19th out of the top 3000 universities in the world in the latest QS rankings by subject.


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