Wind gusts estimated at 140 kmh have destroyed a $20,000 solar-powered monitoring station on Stewart Island.
The winds, believed to have occurred about the start of this month, flipped the sturdy steel frame which held seven large solar panels, Southland District Council services and assets group manager Ian Marshall said yesterday.
”It was lifted up and turned over … We’ve been left with a pile of twisted metal.”
The inverter – the unit that converts direct current into mains electricity suitable for the Stewart Island grid – was also damaged.
The monitoring station was next to the island’s sewage treatment ponds, on a rise about 2km from the township of Oban.
”It is a somewhat exposed site, but we weren’t expecting anything like this. The station has been totally destroyed.”
The council operates the Stewart Island Electrical Supply Authority (Siesa), which supplies about 410 consumers from five diesel generators.
However, that is expensive, with consumers paying at least twice as much per kWh as mainland New Zealand users, and the council is trialling hydro, wind and solar alternatives.
Monitoring sites for each option have been operating since about March, with Robin McNeill, from Southland’s economic development agency Venture Southland, overseeing them.
He said yesterday he was ”very surprised” at the damage, as the frame was sturdy and well anchored.
He and Mr Marshall both said they would like to see the station replaced if possible, as so far only about three months of usable data had been retrieved and they wanted 12 months of data.
Mr McNeill said University of Canterbury researchers had been analysing results and he would ask them whether, based on collected data, they thought the station was worth reinstating.
While the steel frame and inverter were probably salvagable, new solar panels would have to be purchased at an estimated cost of $5000, he said.
Mr McNeill said he still expected to complete his report into energy alternatives for the island by November, as initially planned.
He believed the island would probably need a mix of electricity generation sources in the future, with diesel generators as a backup.
Originally from Otago Daily Times