Introduction

New solar power systems being built on Great Barrier Island will provide Department of Conservation bases with cheaper, cleaner and quieter power.

New solar power systems being built on Great Barrier Island will provide Department of Conservation (DOC) bases with cheaper, cleaner and quieter power.

Infrastructure company Vector, has been awarded a $500,000 contract to build two solar power systems providing electricity for DOC bases at Port Fitzroy and Okiwi on Great Barrier. The power at the two sites, where 11 DOC staff are based, is currently provided by four diesel generators.      

The Great Barrier contract is part of DOC’s sustainability programme. This aims to halve the department’s use of diesel to generate power at sites not on the national electricity grid by converting to renewable energy systems such as solar power.

“The Great Barrier project will be one of the largest off grid solar power installations in the country,” says Tim Brandenburg, DOC’s Warkworth and Great Barrier Island area manager.

“There will be 138 solar panels providing at least 80% of the power needed to run DOC’s bases at Port Fitzroy and Okiwi.”

“The two solar power systems will save money as they’re expected to reduce DOC’s diesel consumption on Great Barrier by up to 90%. Plus we won’t have the high cost of maintaining the ageing diesel generators.”

“In total the solar power conversion will cut our direct operating costs for our Warkworth Great Barrier Area by about $45,000 a year. And the lower maintenance required will free up staff time to work on other conservation priorities.”

“Generating power from the sun produces far less pollution than burning diesel and will be much quieter than the old diesel generators which are really noisy.”

“The cheaper, cleaner, quieter solar power systems being built on Great Barrier are a milestone in the roll out of sustainable power conversions on islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park,” says Tim Brandenburg.   

Great Barrier will join Motutapu, Tiritiri Matangi, Motuihe and Hauturu or Little Barrier as the fifth island in the marine park where DOC has built a solar power system to replace diesel generation. Motuora Island’s solar power system was funded by the Motuora Restoration Society.

DOC has also installed solar power on Stewart (Rakiura), Chatham, Maud, Kapiti and Mana islands. The island conversions from diesel generation are producing significant savings for the department.

Along with the solar panels the new power systems at Port Fitzroy and Okiwi will include new battery banks and inverters providing a much more stable power supply. New diesel generators, that will be smaller and more efficient than the old generators, will be installed to provide backup power. There will also be new switchboards, cabling and other infrastructure including a new generator shed at Okiwi.        

Vector chief executive officer Simon Mackenzie says his company welcomes the opportunity to work with DOC to develop a sustainable solar solution to meet its power needs on Great Barrier Island.

“We’re pleased to be providing solar systems that will provide cheaper, cleaner and quieter power for DOC at a location that is quite remote,” says Simon Mackenzie.

“We did a major urban solar project last year installing 160 solar panels on the roof of a south Auckland warehouse for the cereal maker Hubbards. The panels power the lighting for the warehouse.”  

“Installing two solar power systems on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park presents a different challenge but one we’re pleased to meet as we share DOC’s commitment to finding sustainable solutions to our energy needs,” says Simon Mackenzie               

Great Barrier Local Board chair Paul Downie applauds DOC’s solar power initiative on the island.

“We fully endorse DOC’s conversion to solar power on Great Barrier as it fits with our goal to make the island a leader in the use of clean, renewable energy,” says Paul Downie.

“Because we’re not on the national grid we have to generate our own power. This means we’re perfectly placed to showcase sustainable energy generation to the whole country.”

“Great Barrier’s new airport terminal, opened by Auckland Transport late last year, is powered primarily by solar panels on the roof.”    

“The solar power systems DOC is installing are a welcome addition to Great Barrier’s  renewable energy showcase that will help us show the rest of New Zealand how we can meet our power needs in a sustainable way,” says Paul Downie.     

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