9 Jul 2010

Harbour island to be powered by hydrogen energy

3:12 pm on 9 July 2010

Matiu-Somes Island in Wellington Harbour is to be powered by hydrogen energy from early next year.

The predator-free scientific reserve is currently powered by noisy diesel generators; the hydrogen, besides being quiet, will complement a new renewable power supply that includes solar panels and a small wind turbine.

The project is a collaboration between several parties, including the Department of Conservation (DoC), the Crown research institute Industrial Research and the Harbour Islands Kaitiaki Board.

Industrial Research is building the new system after running a pilot project on a farm in Wairarapa over the past few years. Spokesperson Alister Gardiner says hydrogen is very safe.

"We're keeping it outside," he says. "As long as it's outside it disperses extremely rapidly. It won't cool or collect in trenches or anything like that.

"In that sense it's probably safer than LPG, for instance, which they currently use on the island for cooking and water heating."

DoC area manager Rob Stone says it will save both time and money.