Maraekakaho Hall solar powered

The Maraekakaho Hall will now be capable to act as a fully powered emergency response centre if required, thanks to an off-grid solution from Freenergy Solar Solutions.

Maraekakaho is a rural hub for a large rural community serving Southwest Hastings District. It has excellent access from all directions and is not in any direct flooding risk. The hall is used as a vital community hub. The Maraekakaho Church Hall (MCH) Trust is developing a conservation and modernisation project which has now expanded to include the capabilities as an emergency response centre.

Freenergy Solar Solutions managing director Aaron Duncan said the Maraekakaho Hall was used as an emergency response centre during Cyclone Gabrielle.

“The hall had no power for over one week, meaning they were totally reliant on a generator for backup power. The available generator was a smaller single-phase model that had limited power demand,” Duncan said.

He said the MCH Trust researched and proposed an appropriate solution, arrived at a budget, and researched several funding opportunities. The budget was met by a combination of MPI, Red Cross and Hastings District Council.

“The MCH Trust had a clear vision of what power requirements the hall needed to support an emergency response centre when they approached Freenergy Solar Solutions,” he said.

“Freenergy modelled a solution that would offer grid tie solar to eliminate power bills during normal grid circumstances and provide uninterrupted power supply during an extended power outage.

“This system will supply enough energy to keep the lights on, water heating, water pumping, septic and water treatment, cooking and charging of all electrical appliances including essential communications. The system is future proof so it can provide electric vehicle charging in the future.”

He said Freenergy was first contacted by the Trust in May, then they went through a number of design options, early October they got the green light to proceed with DG2 (application to connect solar to the network) compliance applied to Unison.

Mid November, application to connect to network was approved.

“The system was completed, commissioned and handed over to the Church Hall Trust on December 15, and is ready immediately so support the community in emergency response,” Duncan said.

“We had some tight timelines from MPI to deliver this project at a busy time of the year, we worked hard to deliver the solution with minimal disruption to the hall usage and the adjoining Early Childhood Education Centre. The project was quite complex but was made easier that the Trust had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve.”

The system has 56 x 400w panels (22.5kW) spread over 2 x phases with 30kWh of combined battery storage.

Maraekakaho Church Hall Trust chairman Jonathan Stockley said the installation helped by providing surplus, sustainable electricity which could be sold to fundraise for the Trust.

“It will help in the future by helping us provide a community emergency response centre when the next disaster strikes,” Stockley said. “The system Aaron has designed and installed will enable us to have a place of safety at the centre of our community where we can provide shelter, information, light, heat and power to charge mobile phones, computers, etc,” he said.

“The new solar powers system will also ensure we can provide potable water and maintain the operation of our wastewater system in an emergency when power is interrupted for a significant time. Our hall trust has been working with other community groups to ensure we will have a coherent, integrated and well thought through response to our next emergency. These groups include Focus Maraekakaho, Neighbourhood Support and Maraekakaho Volunteer Fire Brigade. Representatives of these groups and me form our community’s resilience team.”

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air


Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. FYI – the funding came from MPI rather than MBIE as stated in the article.
    Aaron and the whole team from Freenergy Solar have been a pleasure to work with.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *