Powerco exploring portable batteries to lower emissions

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Powerco has used battery energy to power an early childhood centre during an electricity outage as it works to decarbonise and reduce its emissions. 

The electricity and gas distribution company is committed to helping Aotearoa New Zealand achieve its net-zero by 2050 goal, by enabling the sustainable energy transition. As part of this, Powerco aims to reduce its emissions from the use of temporary diesel generators.

“When an early childcare centre, primary or secondary school experiences a temporary planned outage on Powerco’s network, and other practical outage mitigation options are not available, we consider a diesel generator for power supply,” Powerco General Manager Electricity Karen Frew says. 

“We’ve been investigating the use of battery energy storage as an alternative to diesel generation for these types of temporary planned outages. Batteries have instant power, reduced noise, no fuel usage and low emissions.”

Recently, during a planned outage to install a new power line to Ngātea township, in the Hauraki district, Powerco connected Ngātea Early Learning Centre to a portable Battery Energy Storage System (BESS).

“We partnered with Generator Rental Services, who provided the portable BESS, and Northpower, who installed a logger to check the load requirements at the early learning centre,” Karen Frew says. 

On the day of the outage, the battery was taken to site, connected, and monitored throughout. It used an average of just 6% battery capacity per hour. At the completion of the outage, there was still 57% capacity available. 

“At times throughout the day when the load on the battery increased, we’d ask the learning centre staff what electrical equipment they were using, such as turning on the air conditioners or using the hot water for washing hands or dishes. This helped us determine what demand the battery could meet. The children at the day care also found this exciting. 

“We’re thrilled that in this instance we were able to supply the early learning centre without emissions from diesel generation.  

“As diesel fuel was not required, this reduced the cost of the project, as the cost of hiring the battery alone was comparable to a diesel generator.” 

With 27 outages to early learning centres across the Powerco electricity network last year, Karen Frew says there is potential benefits using a BESS for these types of customers.

“Being on a trailer, the portable BESS can be moved quickly to site and connected efficiently. 

“As larger portable battery units become available, we’ll also look at using them on other types of customer outages, and we also want to trial them on longer unplanned outages. The ability to pair with small-scale portable solar panels will also increase the range of uses.

“The potential is encouraging,” she says.

Pic below: Members of the Powerco, Generator Rental Services and Northpower team with the BESS at Ngātea Early Learning Centre.

Six people in high-vis standing next to a large white container on a trailer



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