Kiwi Conservation Gets Solar Boost

It seems fitting that New Zealand‘s Department of Conservation (DOC) should take steps to reduce its carbon footprint, even as it helps Kiwis conserve and celebrate their natural heritage. Toward that end, the government agency has been systematically cutting the demands for diesel at its island stations with solar power systems–the latest of which have been installed at two bases on the Great Barrier Island.

Comprising one of the largest off-grid solar power systems in the country, these 138 solar panels are expected to generate at least 37,000 kilowatt-hours per year. That means they’ll kick in up to 80 percent of the power needed to run the DOC’s two bases at Port Fitzroy and Okiwi, where 11 staffers are based, relegating four diesel generators to a backseat role in power production.

solar Great Barrier Island, new zealand

image via Wikimedia Commons

These installations, which were completed just six months after they were announced last October, are part of the DOC’s sustainability program, which seeks to cut the agency’s use of diesel at places that are not on the national electricity grid by converting to renewable energy systems such as solar. The Great Barrier joins Motutapu, Tiritiri Matangi, Motuihe and Hauturu/Little Barrier as the fifth island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park where the agency has installed solar power system to cut or replace diesel generation.

According to the DOC, visitors to its campground at Akapoua Bay are enjoying the peace and quiet now that the old diesel generators at the DOC workshops have been switched off–but they’re not on the only ones celebrating the demise of these noisy generators, which have long been the bane of staff members at the Okiwi station.

“With the diesel generators, the system would fall over if [staff members] all ran their vacuum cleaners and washing machines at the same time,” Tim Brandenburg, the DOC’s Warkworth and Great Barrier Island area manager, said in a statement. “They even avoided everyday appliances such as toasters and jugs [kettles] to conserve electricity. Now the supply is much better and our staff can join the 21st century.”

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply April 29, 2012

    Christopher Miles

    This is great, and congratulations to NewZealand, and it’s people. Good on them for replacing most fuel delivery with self sustainable solar.

    Notice I didn’t say all fuel delivery.

    These sorts of installations continue to puzzle me  why stop at 80%? Much like a recent Solar installation at a Marine Terminal in Camden, NJ (the largest rooftop solar in North America) which also stopped at 80%.

    Is there some hidden something that prevents people from saying “We’re totally off gas/grid”

    Is maintaining grid ties a good thing politically? What about going Net Zero and putting excess in during the day- and pulling what’s needed at night?

    What about additional conservation to make up that 20%? Seems like with solar- there is a fear of going “all in”. Perhaps as more efficient panels and systems make their way to market- the energy mix formula for these sorts of projects will always be near 100% wind/solar/ with some PassivHaus/LEED/BREEM design to more than make up any shortfall in generation capacity.


    • Reply May 1, 2012


      80% is a very conservative estimate it would be more than that for most DOC installations. but it is not cost effective to achieve 100% the first reason being that there are occasional peak loads when there are special projects on that substantially exceed solar outputs. WIth the high finacial and environmental cost of batteries complete dependance on solar duriing occasional periods of several days off poor solar output mean generators are a good option to make up the ballance.   For the reasons above estimates show that to go 100% solar would require in the order of %50 more capital outlay for solar and battery components. NB:Generators are still also required as a backup in the event of equipment failure.

      As you point out the most important thing is to reduce demands as much as possible and this is still in progress which will also get DOC a step closer to the ideal.

      • Reply May 1, 2012

        Christopher Miles

        Thanks. I agree, bang for the buck makes sense at ~80%. Don’t want the never installed perfect to price out the real world good solution that does get affordably implemented.

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