Indigenous | Marae

Solar powering Pipiwai

Tau Henare marae in Pipiwai has gone solar, and now boasts the largest marae-based solar network in New Zealand. The scheme will also benefit the small Northland community.

Over three hundred panels have been installed on the marae, and Tau Henare chairman Len Bristowe says the potential to power the whole community is what drove Te Orewai to install them on the marae.

"If we put enough solar panels on top of our whare, then perhaps we could create enough electricity to support our Te Orewai whānau."

Electricity from the 150kwh system would be offered to at least 80 homes through a process called peer-to-peer power-sharing.

Tū Mai Rā Energy, which installed the panels, has teamed up with Māori power company Nau Mai Rā, to offer discounted power to whānau in the region. According to Tylah Wharehinga from Tū Mai Rā, the two companies came up with the idea of a virtual power station.

"We install the solar system on the marae, the marae houses the solar system, and basically exports the power back into the grid."

"The marae was always our hub. If we speak of home, we speak of our marae. Our marae is our whare, and we carry that with us wherever we go."

Bristowe says there should be interest from other marae wanting to follow in their footsteps.

"If they have a building that they can install the panels on, or maybe they don't know of the benefits that their whānau will receive, all they need to do is look at the benefits."