Raglan residents exploring generating their own power have the support of WEL Networks.

An executive committee of eight Raglan residents met in the west coast Waikato town on Monday night to explore the options around a renewable energy project.


Committee spokeswoman Lisa Thomson said members were looking at the pros and cons of a community led power generation project using photovoltaic cells, wave generation and wind power.


The project could include one, two, or all three, options.


The committee is also looking at how it could be built at existing Raglan homes or on a greenfield site in the vicinity of the town.


Raglan could either remain connected to the national grid and supply power it generates back to it, or the town could go off the grid and supply itself.


The committee has set a September 17 date for a community forum meeting on its findings with a view to hold a community open day in October or November. The committee is also planning to establish a Facebook page it will call Power to the People - Whangaroa's Energy Independence Forum.


"It was really great. We established a committee to look at what we want in our community," Thomson said.


"There was a lot of discussion."


 "I think it's cool," said WEL Networks customer services manager Brendon Moloney.


"For them to be discussing this is a great thing. If they wanted to do a wind farm or a photovoltaic farm and sell that energy to the grid then what they have got to do is talk and get some options from a retailer or set themselves up as a retailer. I think they would find that quite challenging."


Moloney said the network operator would be happy to discuss the fledgling project with the committee once it had become clearer what the community wanted.


"I have got plenty of experts waiting behind the scenes," he said.


WEL Networks asset planning and engineering manager Mat O'Neill said the committee's biggest challenge would be in the retail space.


"The only issues for us is what we call a congested network – too much generation in a location to support a voltage – you can get into a situation where you get fairly high voltages.


"Photovoltaic cells have a peak generation in the middle of the day. Our need is the dead opposite. We peak in the morning and we peak in the evening."


WEL Networks general manager of asset management Paul Blue said projects like the one Raglan was considering were uncommon in New Zealand because of the costs.


Raglan residents are discussing the idea of generating their own power after a meeting with Wellington-based renewable energy consultant Ian Shearer.


For Shearer such projects were not about making money, but ensuring electricity continued to be supplied to rural areas at a reasonable cost.


Chris Gardner - Stuff

Image: A solar farm is one of the options being discussed at Raglan where residents are considering generating their own power.

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