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Solar panels being installed at Taarewaanga Marae in Ōtorohanga (R-L) Mike Fox, Tom Roa, Samuel Mikaere

Second Maniapoto Marae gets TLC solar solution

12 December 2022

The second of two Marae to receive solar panels as part of Te Nehenehenui (formerly Maniapoto Māori Trust Board) and The Lines Company (TLC) joint solar initiative has been confirmed, and panels installed.

The wharekai at Taarewaanga Marae in Ōtorohanga now houses an 18.5kW rooftop solar panel array – generating power for the Marae, along with surplus energy which they’ll share among five whānau households.

Te Nehenehenui Group Chief Executive, Samuel Mikaere, says the project to capture energy from the sun was the beginning of a journey of sustainable practices on Maniapoto Marae.

“Renewable energy is a great option and as Māori we always reflect upon our values around kaitiakitanga. So, the ability to create our own energy and then share that with our whānau works for us.

“It’s about whanaungatanga, kotahitanga, and how we can do this with kaitiaki in mind.

“It’s not just about powering our Marae … it’s also saying this can work and is a great option for our whānau and gives back to our community as we make energy available for others,” said Mikaere.

Mike Fox, TLC chief executive, sees Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funding for the project as an essential step towards major change within the energy sector.

“It’s great to see that level of Government investment in what the future of energy might look like.

“Using MBIE funding we’re able to pull together some new technology and existing technology and try that out in a way that is relatively low risk but adds a lot of benefit to our community.

“We see renewable solar as an important part of taking our region and New Zealand forward as we move toward a fully renewable energy system. For us, we need to enable our customers to take advantage of that as a lines company and also give them the benefit of remaining connected to the network, so they get the best of both worlds,” said Fox.

Taarewaanga Marae, the second in a series of two Marae to benefit from the project, will have the advantage of lower energy costs to run the Marae, as well as the ability to gift excess energy through a peer-to-peer trading platform.

Chairman, Tom Roa, says renovations of the existing Marae space, along with new buildings, means their power needs have grown.

“That infrastructure, with solar panelling, will be so much more efficient for us.

“The fact that for the next 12 months at least, the Marae community as well as five of our local households of our kaumātua may potentially receive reduced power costs – it’s a big impact.

“We know that with this new complex, the space will be much more widely used. The solar panelling will benefit not just our Marae community, but I suggest also the wider Ōtorohanga community.”

In November, the first stage of the $200,000 pilot project saw solar panels installed on the wharekai at Māniaroa Marae – located north of Mōkau. Initial results from the installation are encouraging, with excess energy passively produced and shared among the community.

The year-long project is due to be fully delivered in December 2023, with insights and data from the completed pilot project utilised to help inform future renewable energy approaches for both Marae and TLC.

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