Photo captions (L-R): Repairs underway from fire damage, a replacement power pole after original poles were destroyed in the fire.
Update: Friday 21 January at 14:55
Following the fire at Emerald Bay near Wanaka almost two weeks ago, Aurora Energy will complete repairs to the electricity network later today.
A number of power poles were destroyed in the fire and needed to be replaced, with 78 customers in the area either being supplied by a generator or on a temporary supply while the complex repair work was done.
Aurora Energy General Manager Operations and Network Performance Matt Settle said some additional work was carried out at the same time, to future proof the network in the area and prevent the need to disrupt the rejuvenation of vegetation.
“We knew there were some poles near the fire site that weren’t damaged by the fire but due to be replaced within the next five years, so we made the decision to replace them now.
“We wanted to leave the area without the need to re-enter, so vegetation can recover without being disturbed again. The Department of Conservation was happy for us to do this and supported our approach,” he said.
Four additional poles were replaced, and one pole removed to straighten a kink in the line span.
“Our contractors, Delta, worked in some challenging conditions while doing the repair work, and we’re also grateful to DOC and local land owners for giving us access to their land,” Mr Settle said.
Customers can expect to be without power between 3 and 5 p.m. this Friday afternoon while they are switched back to their usual electricity supply. Aurora Energy staff have contacted customers to advise them of the temporary outage.
Aurora Energy is New Zealand’s seventh largest electricity network by customer connections, supplying electricity to over 92,000 homes, farms and businesses in Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes. Aurora Energy Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dunedin City Holdings Limited, owned by the Dunedin City Council.
Update: Friday 14 January at 17:00
People who had a power cut due to the fire at Emerald Bay near Wanaka will remain on a temporary supply until later next week, when Aurora Energy can restore their usual power supply following complex repair work.
Challenging terrain to get to power poles damaged in the fire, combined with difficult ground conditions, mean repairs have taken longer than expected to complete.
Seven power poles had to be replaced, including a complex three-pole structure on the top of the hill above Emerald Bay, before permanent power can be restored. Around 30 customers are currently being supplied with electricity from a generator, with other properties on a temporary electricity supply.
Aurora Energy General Manager Operations and Network Performance Matt Settle said the work would usually take two days under normal conditions.
“Site access is difficult due to where the poles are located and this adds to the time it is taking to replace them, especially for the three-pole structure that is at the top of the bluff and supports a long span of power lines,” he said. “It also took longer than expected to break through the solid rock at the top of the hill and we had to bring in a second ground-breaker machine to help. We’re progressing well but there is still a lot of work to do.”
Mr Settle thanked customers who had an outage during the fire for their patience while Aurora Energy organised for a generator to be set up or alternative supply coordinated. Setting up a generator takes time due to ensuring the set-up is safe; in this case it involved laying earth matting to protect people from electric shocks, before switching people on progressively to make sure the generator was not overloaded.
“Customers on the Mount Aspiring side of the fire area who are currently on a generator were asked to use essential electricity only while we confirmed we had a sufficient amount of generation available to cover the demand, and we were pleased to contact them during the week to let them know they could return to their normal electricity use as we had capacity for this,” he said.
Customers in the area are getting regular updates by Aurora Energy staff. When a date is confirmed for when the repairs will be complete, customers will be contacted again and told to expect a power outage for up to two hours while they are switched back to their usual power.
“This will impact on all 78 households who had a power outage during the fire, plus some additional customers who were not initially impacted but will be when the power is restored. This is due to the setup of the electricity network in the area. Our customer experience team will be in touch next week to let them know when to expect their power to be out for a short time,” Mr Settle said.
Aurora Energy thanks the Department of Conservation for giving access to DOC land where four of the replacement poles sites are located, and the cooperation of land owners who have also granted access for inspections, repairs and generator setup.
Update: Tuesday 11 January at 8:00
The generator is now operating and power was restored to all customers yesterday (Monday) evening. We’ll provide a further update on the timeframe for when the seven damaged poles will be replaced once we have more information, and expect to start work on this today.
Monday 10 January at 16:20
Aurora Energy can confirm that 35 customers are still without power as a result of the scrub fire at Emerald Bay. This is down from 78 customers initially impacted, with Aurora Energy being able to restore electricity to 43 customers last night.
We are organising a generator to be transported to the area and hope to generate electricity later today to customers who are still without power on the Mount Aspiring side of the fire area, and taking action to return supply to those on the Wanaka side.
Aurora Energy staff have been on site this morning to inspect damage to our equipment and we have confirmed seven power poles need to be replaced before permanent power can be restored.
With fire investigators onsite today, we are unable to access the area until it has been cleared for us to commence repair works. At this time, we expect to receive clearance tomorrow, with the repairs expected to take at least two days due to difficult access and the terrain.
Staff from Aurora Energy will be calling the 35 customers who are still without power today, to give them an update. Information is also available on the Aurora Energy website at www.auroraenergy.co.nz and our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/auroraenergynz