Pilot project full of energy

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OTHERS from throughout New Zealand are learning from a Southland pilot project encouraging people to switch to wood heating options for their businesses and schools, an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) manager says.
The Wood Energy South project, managed by Venture Southland, was set up as a three-year pilot with funding input from EECA.
As well as technical advice and support, boiler owners can apply for conversion subsidies of up to $100,000. Businesses and schools which have already converted include McCallums Drycleaning, Splash Palace, Donovan School, Waihopai School, and Menzies College.
EECA business project director Bill Brander and his colleague, project manager Dinesh Chand, who are based in Wellington, were among about 30 people at a one-day symposium in Invercargill on July 21 to discuss local, national and international progress on wood and biomass heating.
In the afternoon, about 20 Southern Institute of Technology environmental management students went along to listen.
Mr Brander said some people had come from outside the city to attend the symposium.
‘‘The idea is to… share the results with other regions, because it is public money and we want to make sure the results get spread widely. That is what the workshop today is doing. There are people from outside the region coming to see what’s been learnt.’’
Venture Southland staff were also doing agood job of leading presentations, workshops and seminars around the country, he said.
In Southland, the pilot had successfully raised the awareness of wood, Mr Brander said.
‘‘The pipeline of opportunities to convert to wood is there. It might not all happen in the next year, but there is certainly people considering wood, and that’s great.’’
Mr Brander said EECA helped fund Wood Energy South because of the abundance of wood available in Southland, because wood boilers were better for the environment than coal, and because Southland was small enough to be able to make a ‘‘cluster approach’’ work.
The pilot has another year to run, but Mr Brander said at this stage there were no plans to extend the funding beyond that.
‘‘We want to learn from it, take a breath and think ‘how do we do this next’?’’
That would likely involve clusters being established in other parts of the country, he said.

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