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Whangamata prepares for electricity boost

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Residents of Whangamata can expect to see major activity at the Powerco substation on the outskirts of town as a number of major components of the multi-million dollar network reinforcement project arrive on site.

The Thames-Coromandel District Council has been working alongside electricity distributor Powerco, to support them with communications on the Whangamata Central project, a multi-million dollar trail of cutting edge electricity technology, to support our thriving coastal settlement.

The project involves a grid-scale battery back-up system, paired with a large scale generator and bespoke network switching system, all designed to support supply of electricity to the Whangamata CBD in the event of a power cut on the 33,000 volt line supplying the town.

A large crane will lift the battery container on site, an inverter, a portacom, a 3MVA transformer, generator and fuel tank.

“This marks a major milestone for the project with the majority of components arriving,” says Powerco general manager asset management and network transformation Ryno Verster.

“It’s an exciting week for our project team with so many of the key components arriving on site and being lifted in to place. Obviously we still have a lot of work to do to configure the components, install the battery and commission the system but this week is a clear sign we are on track to have the system installed and operating prior to Christmas,” says Ryno.

The grid-scale batteries are due to arrive and be installed in the container later in August.

The system being trialled has a range of possible applications but the primary benefit to customers in the area would be as a fast acting back-up power supply to the central business district.

“Whangamata is supplied by a single 33,000 volt line running through some rugged terrain from Waihi and historically it has experienced damage from severe weather, tree felling and a number of other asset failures.

“When damage occurs to that line, all power is cut to more than 5700 properties.

“Our expectation is that once successfully commission, Whangamata Central will be able to rapidly restore electricity supply to around 1000 properties in the Whangamata CBD and continue to supply them while our field staff locate and repair the damage to the network.”

The battery was capable of supplying the CBD area during peak business hours for a period of 1-2 hours and, when paired with the generator, could maintain that supply indefinitely as long as the diesel tank was kept fuelled.

“Powerco has been communicating with the business community in the area over recent years, meeting with a range of stakeholders and attending meetings with Enterprise Whangamata.

“We are acutely aware of the impact power cuts have on Whangamata and particularly the economic impact to businesses during the holiday season and this project is expected to make a significant difference.”

The line between Waihi and Whangamata has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment. However due to the rugged terrain and the exposure to severe weather, the line is subject to a high level of risk and having a system like this in place is a first for Powerco which we believe will provide a step change in performance for the Whangamata CBD.

“At Powerco, we understand that many of the businesses in Whangamata generate 80 to 90 per cent of their income over the holiday season and so if we can minimise the risk and duration of power cuts, we minimise any adverse economic impact to the area,” says Ryno.

Details of which properties in the CBD would be supplied by the back-up system can be found on Powerco’s website: powerco.co.nz/Whangamata

The project is on track to be completed prior to Christmas 2019.

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