Chatham Island Wind, an Australian-owned business that had promised to slash power bills for islanders dependent on diesel generators, has been put into liquidation three years after its parent went into voluntary administration.
The two French-designed 225kW turbines were installed on land leased from Chatham Mayor Alfred Preece in 2010.
The contract was terminated in 2014 after the parent of Chatham Island Wind, now known as BlueNRGY Group, got into financial difficulties. While BlueNRGY emerged from administration in 2015, efforts to renegotiate the agreement and get the turbines running again were unsuccessful.
The second turbine was dismantled this week and the equipment is now in the hands of liquidators.
The local utility had planned to take possession of the turbines and invest in battery storage but nothing came of that.
“We’ve discontinued our relationship. There’s a significant amount of money that needs to be expended on the turbines,” said Brian Harris, chief executive of Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust, which oversees the power company Chatham Islands Electricity.
Any proposal to get the turbines up and running again “needs to be cost-effective and reduce energy costs on the island”.
Many Chatham Islanders use solar cells along with diesel generators. Those connected to the power lines paid up to $1.02/kWh for electricity, the highest in New Zealand.
That’s encouraged interest in alternative sources of electricity, including micro-hydro, biogas energy and wave energy, but it has also presented the Chathams with some false dawns.
Still, Mr Preece is optimistic about the prospects of cheaper power on the Chatham Islands.
He said he was travelling to the US in the next week or so and hoped to catch up with BlueNRGY’s William Morro or his Australian executives about the wind turbines, which he says are “very good units” that could “work extremely well with the improvements in battery technology”.
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