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Infratec to deliver ground-breaking community energy project

23 March 2020

Renewable energy company Infratec has won the contract to deliver a ground-breaking community solar farm project in Ōtaki — a town on a mission to become a net producer of clean energy.

The Energise Ōtaki solar farm project will harvest energy from the sun to fund local community energy projects.

Energise Ōtaki has received $407,000 for the project from the Wellington Community Trust — a significant investment recognising the environmental, economic and community benefits.

The project includes a 107 kW ground-mounted solar farm at Kāpiti Coast District Council’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, generating power to run the wastewater treatment process; and a 23kW roof-top solar farm at Ōtaki College, providing energy for the school. About 240 panels will be installed at the wastewater treatment plant and about 52 at the college.

Infratec is using the latest high power 440W panels — making the project more compact and saving money on fencing and racking to help get more power from the money invested.

The school and the council have agreed to pay close to market rates for the energy they use, and that money will go back into Energise Ōtaki’s community energy projects. The Council gets the added benefits of reduced emissions as part of its greenhouse gas reduction targets (an estimated 17 tonnes a year across the two sites) — and its energy-spend going back into community energy projects.

The power generated will return about $25,000—$30,000 a year to Energise Ōtaki for at least 25 years, which means a sizeable return on the funds invested by Wellington Community Trust will go back into the community.

Infratec Chief Executive Greg Visser says the team at Infratec is passionate about working on projects that benefit communities and the environment and is delighted to be involved in the Energise Ōtaki project.

“This is exactly the sort of project that we like to be part of, where we can help to deliver significant benefits for the community and the environment. We believe the model is highly transferable and we hope the project will also be a model for other communities.”

“Recognising the community-centric nature of the project, Infratec is also taking a community-focused approach. To get the best possible solution at the best cost for the community, we are taking an open-book, collaborative design approach. That means putting aside our usual cost structures and models, looking at all the cost options together, and then agreeing on the best possible solution to generate the most power we can with the grant money that is available.”

Energise Ōtaki is an incorporated society with charitable status established in 2010. Its goal is to develop Ōtaki as a town that is as self-sustaining as possible in energy. This includes energy conservation, renewable energy generation, innovation around technologies, energy education and working with schools, finding ways to avoid energy waste, and energy recovery from waste.

The project is expected to be complete by October 2020 and is the first of five solar PV (and possibly in future battery-storage) projects that Energise Ōtaki hopes to undertake over the next five years, ultimately delivering at least $100,000 a year back into the community.