As the Business Connector for Sustainable Business Network, Ahika launched its inaugural Learning from Leaders event on Tuesday evening with four speakers on the subject of ‘Powering Dunedin with Renewable Energy’. Hilary Phipps and Hans Pietsch from Property Services plunged us into the University of Otago’s energy journey. We started with the faulty, old and dirty oil boiler and progressed through the university owning one wood chip boiler and Hans hauling 15kg bags of chips around campus to having 13 wood chip boilers with more in the pipeline and loading being automated. Hans’ graph and passionate statements around the high cost of electricity should have been enough to have other big businesses hammering on our next speakers’ door to get in line. Eduard Ebbinge from Timbr (an off-shoot of Spark Energy) talked about the pro’s and con’s of keeping an existing wood chip fuel supply. We learned about clever log stacking to maximise the sun and wind to the expensive wood chip powered wood chip drying facilitates. From these two talks alone we discovered that there is enough wood fuel in and around Dunedin to power a lot of Dunedin’s large businesses as well as the schools (they just need to convert to wood chip first!).
Thirdly, we heard from Neville Auton who talked us through the concept of a District Heating system for Dunedin, based on wood chip fuel. His vision and enthusiasm for the future of Dunedin’s heating system just needs some financial backing to get it up and running. Lastly, our own Lloyd McGinty spoke about wood chip fuel in Europe and implications for Dunedin, his talk reinforced Neville’s District Heating concept with working examples such as in Schrems in Austria. They demonstrated how a kindergarten was currently being linked into their system. We were also educated on how to use every last cubic cm of heat generated from the wood chips.
Our first event concluded with a visit to the building next door to see one of the university’s wood chip boilers in action. Our guests returned to CSAFE for drinks and nibbles and to discuss all they had learned.