Meridian engineers go off grid

As you know, at Meridian, our partnerships are pretty important to us. We’ll travel far and wide for our people, including all the way down to the islands of Whenua Hou which sits off the coast of Stewart Island and Anchor, in the Dusky Sounds. These islands are home to Aotearoa’s native kākāpō. 

Earlier this year, some of our engineering team visited both beautiful islands to work alongside Department of Conservation (DOC) with on-site repairs and to scope what the future will look like. 

Whenua Hou accomodation

Whenua Hou Rangers Hut – photo credit Kevin England

Whenua Hou electrical work

Electrical work on the island

Let the sunshine in

Currently Whenua Hou uses coal to keep their water hot and Anchor uses gas. That’s been the way of things for a long time, but DOC are keen to make some changes. They want to go renewable and as you can probably imagine, we got pretty excited about this! They’ve committed to phase out fossil fuels by the end of 2021 and we’re behind them every step of the way. 

A big part of this visit was to scope and propose renewable options so that we can be there to help DOC plan their overhaul of the site’s off-grid electrical systems. Removal of coal is the first step, and while they’ll retain the existing hydro and diesel generator power supplies; the aim is to make the most of our big sun in the sky, harvesting its energy through solar panels.

Safety first

Our team are pretty versatile, and while they were on the islands, they took the opportunity to help improve the overall safety and make sure that the equipment the rangers rely on, was up to standard.

Both of the islands are in the deep south and it’s crucial that any maintenance causes minimal disruption to operations. There’s also a spot of time pressure too – it’s key that any work is completed before the next breeding season begins! Remember to keep your fingers (and toes) crossed for a bumper rimu fruit season.

What’s next?

The team will be back on island this month, to work with DOC, along with Reid Technologies and EnerSys Group, to scope the installation of a solar power system. They’ll also be scoping the tasks needed to upgrade the diesel generators, cable replacements and water treatment systems. 

A word from our friends at DOC

"The ability to work alongside Meridian to ensure sustainable and efficient infrastructure on the Kākāpō Recovery islands is an amazing opportunity and greatly appreciated by the Kākāpō Recovery Programme.

Rimu fruit counts from March 2021 are looking really promising across Whenua Hou, Anchor and Te Kākahu-O-Tamatea islands, informing our team that we are likely to have a 2021/2022 breeding season. Our team are in full swing to get ready for more feathery friends!  Part of getting ready is upgrading our power systems on Whenua Hou and Anchor and installing a power-system on Te Kākahu to cater for the increased number of kākāpō. Having fit-for-purpose power systems will help ensure incubators, brooders and feed-out gear can run efficiently and ensure and that DOC staff and volunteers are catered for.  This will give our team the best chance in successfully managing a breeding season. 

Meridian have the key skillset and experience which assists our team to design a new and more sustainable power system which utilises vastly improved solar capacity and battery storage. Engineers and electricians from Meridian have been key to scoping this work, which is likely to be installed by 31 September 2021.

Thank you to our project partners Meridian Energy!”

Galen Davitt 
Kākāpō Infrastructure Ranger 
Department of Conservation