Wind power could be a reality on the East Coast by the end of next year, with the Eastland Group looking at reconditioned wind turbines to further test and develop the Mokairau hill site.
Eastland Network Limited put exploration of the site on hold because of the inhibiting restrictions on local generation imposed by anti-monopoly legislation.
But major changes proposed to the Electricity Industry Reform Act (EIRA) make it feasible for the group to again look at investing in generation, says chief executive Matt Todd.
“The changes are material and it should pave the way for us to look at investing in generation, which has not really been progressed over the past couple of years due to the restrictions imposed by the current wording of the EIRA,” he said.
The EIRA allows network companies to invest in electricity generation only for sale in areas outside their own distribution networks, or for amounts totaling less than 5MW.
Neither option would be feasible in this district, where local generation is needed to manage local peaks, supplement supply and avert the need for multimillion-dollar duplicate supply lines into the district.
Amendments now mooted for the EIRA would allow among other things:
• The raising of the threshold at which corporate separation and the arms-length rules apply from 2 percent or 5MW to
10mW. If a company exceeds the 10MW threshold, the compliance requirements are proposed to be relaxed up to 30mW by allowing the same person to be a director of both lines and supply businesses under the condition there is at least one independent director. It also allows common management between the lines and generation companies.
• Prohibition on cross-owned retail businesses trading in financial hedges and spot energy being removed.
• Restriction on retail sales to the nominal annual capacity of the plant within the network (as opposed to the exact output from the plant within that network).
Allowing up to 30MW to be generated here would remove the need for alternative transmission lines from Tuai, provided any new generation could run as base load i.e. for 24 hours a day.
The peak load into Gisborne was currently 50MW, so another 30M W would go a long way to meeting demand in the foreseeable future.
But investigations into local electricity generation were still in their infancy.
“We are still hopeful of generating from wind,” said Mr Todd.
“We are looking at a secondhand turbine but any form of generation is still some way off. The earliest would be the end of next year.”
The Eastland Group was also exploring the possibility of small-scale hydro-electricity operations and co-generation using wood waste but the latter would depend on a customer who would take the heat.
by Marianne Gillingham
13 September 2007
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