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Leading a sustainable energy future
When Windsor Substation’s 11kV switchboard reached the end of its life, Unison identified the opportunity to pilot a new, innovative and sustainable substation.
The first of its kind in New Zealand, Windsor Substation has been designed and built in a way that reduces our carbon footprint and uses materials that are kind on the environment and people.
Windsor Substation is located on Sylvan Road in Parkvale, Hastings and services approximately 3,500 residential and commercial accounts in the local area.
Substations like this one are an essential part of how Unison supplies electricity to the community. They transform voltage from high to low (or the reverse), as well as performing other important functions. They are traditionally built for operation, often utilising materials that aren’t environmentally friendly. Unison manages and maintains 25 substations in Hawke’s Bay.
Windsor Substation has been operational in its current state since 1 January 2022. Unison will monitor how the building responds to the demands of the network and the environment in the years to come, to inform future decisions on how to approach the redevelopment and replacement of substations in the future.
In July 2022, Windsor Substation was named the winner of the Low Carbon Future Award at the New Zealand Energy Excellence Awards.
Pioneering sustainable design
Unison is committed to leading a sustainable energy future that delivers consumers’ changing energy needs, while enabling our communities to prosper for generations to come.
This project presented an opportunity for Unison to materialise this vision and purpose, and showcase how modern substations can be safe and functional, as well as flexible, sustainable and beautiful.
Traditionally, the construction of a substation utilises materials that aren’t considered to be environmentally friendly, including reinforced concrete – cement is the source of around 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide – and PVC.
Assisted by Charissa Snijders Architect and Tricia Love Consultants Ltd, experts from across the sustainable building industry, our engineers have designed and built a substation that reduces our carbon footprint and uses materials that are kind on the environment and people. The design of the substation is modular, meaning it can be replicated and built again across the network, and is relocatable, and can be moved elsewhere in the future if necessary.
- The new stand-alone substation has been installed in front of an existing building.
- Replacement of the switchboard includes construction of a new switch room; replacing the 11kV switchboard, associated cabling and the existing mechanical protection relays; installation of arc flash protection; and partial discharge monitoring of the 11kV switchboard.
- Salvaged materials have been used alongside products that are healthier and non-toxic compared to traditional building materials.
No Red List materials have been used – Red List building materials contain chemicals designated as harmful and are deemed the worst materials prevalent in the building industry.
How does Windsor Substation’s design support our planet in alignment with the Living Building Challenge standards?
A Life Cycle Assessment was used to assess the direct and indirect environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of the Windsor Substation, over its entire life cycle. Windsor Substation, in comparison with a typical substation, achieves a 363% reduction in carbon.
Rainwater harvesting and a purposeful storage system supplies Windsor Substation with all its water needs. Water produced by Windsor Substation is used to irrigate the surrounding kowhai trees, providing nourishment for native birds and insects.
Constructed using locally sourced and environmentally friendly materials as a priority, including utilising 40 salvaged Unison power poles from circa the 1950s. In design and building, waste to landfill was carefully minimised through reuse and repurposing.
Solar energy powers 100% of Windsor Substation’s needs. Energy produced above and beyond its requirements is sent back to the grid for community use. This is also referred to as net-positive energy.
Native habitat has been established around the substation, with biodiversity restored and supported through landscaping.
Designed with the physical and psychological needs and wellbeing of the community as a priority.
Built to be beautiful, using biophilic design principles to connect with the natural environment.
Designed to inspire, educate and be enjoyed, to the equal benefit of all of the community benefitting.
The Legacy of Makirikiri Stream
The Windsor Substation has been designed with its place in mind, so that aesthetically it blends in and complements the landscape on which it sits.
Understanding the geology, the natural and human history and culture of place are the first steps in defining what is unique about a place; and can help bring alive the interplay between the building and the place, and how both can evolve with their environment.
The Ngaruroro River borders the Hastings area. One branch of the Ngaruroro is the Makirikiri Stream, now known as Awahou stream. A small kāianga (settlement) existed on the shores of the Makirikiri Stream, one of the numerous waterways which meandered in aimless fashion across the Heretaunga Plains. In modern times the shallow, shingle-bed stream percolates mostly underground, rising to the surface at Hastings racecourse, going underground through the central city before making its way back to the surface at Windsor Park.
Reflecting the legacy of Makirikiri as a life and energy source for those who settled this place, this substation will similarly power our local community by delivering energy needs through a dynamic, flexible and sustainable electricity system.