Solar Power to the People

When Orla Cumisky took over the pub in 2020, one of her goals was to reduce the pub’s reliance on fuel generated energy. Faced with the minor obstacle of no space to set up the required solar panel array, she approached the neighbour over the fence, Peter Blackwell, and presented a proposition. Could he supply the pub with 24/7 renewable power?

Orla Cumisky & Peter Blackwell

As a fourth generation Blackwell, and having spent his lifetime connected to the island, Peter felt it was a natural consideration to be driving towards generating green energy; and shutting down the noisy fuel-guzzling, carbon-emitting generators running 16 hours a day over the fence would be a huge bonus.

With the goal to generate 200kWh per day and a sustainable business model, Peter designed and developed a 50kW solar system. He has installed an impressive 150 solar panels, lithium- ion batteries, and inverter system, and began supplying the pub power over the fence.

The Currach complex has run on 98% solar power over the past year and slashed its power costs in half. The obvious reduction is carbon emissions and generator noise were to be expected, what wasn’t expected was the impact that 24/7 uninterrupted power would have on all the Currach’s facilities and systems.

This now means; ice-cold beer (for Paul Pye!) from the moment the pub opens, happy guests enjoying seamless power 24/7, as they expect. The kitchen, refrigeration and water filtration systems have all been upscaled to take advantage of the endless power.

And, well, the pub even gets to enjoy regular evening visits from their ‘power company’ CEO who is always happy to stay onsite to observe proceedings.

Views from the Currach of the now rarely-used generator shed overlooking Pete Blackwell’s land towards his multi purpose sheds – solar panels on the roof and storage inside

This ‘private enterprise’ and collaborative microgrid arrangement is testament to the fact the good old Barrier can-do and (more than) make-do attitude, is alive and strong. Illustrating a successful model and significant development in the island’s sustainability.

This private enterprise applied for an Auckland Climate grant but were unsuccessful. They wonder if any of the Auckland based recipients have achieved results of this magnitude. They have asked.

At 10:30am, as we sat chatting to Pete, he takes a peek at his solar app, notes that on this sunny morning the batteries are 95% full, he’s remarks he’s still got ample power to spare throughout the day before the pub’s main demand kicks in through the evening and night.

‘What do you plan to do with that surplus power Pete?’

Well, that’s another front cover story.