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  • Writer's pictureMike Casey

Insurance for loss of income from a power cut!

One of the fair and reasonable questions we often get from other farmers is about the loss of income that can occur due to an unscheduled power cut. In our case, a power cut when our electric frost fighting fans are operating could be catastrophic for our cherry crop.

3 blade electric frost fighting fan
30kW electric frost fighting fan that runs off the New Zealand power grid

For stone fruit, the dangerous frosts happen on still nights in spring, when our fruit buds are vulnerable. There is no opportunity to generate our own power from solar or wind, because there is no sunlight and no wind.

Frosts can last anywhere from a few minutes to around ten hours. Our frost fighting fans use a lot of electricity that we cannot create when they are operating and cannot store, because it would require over a million dollars worth of batteries.

Orange is power consumption and blue is power generation from our farm solar during a particularly frosty week.

Aurora Energy, our utility company, provided us with data on power cuts in our area in the last 10 years. It turns out there have only been two power cuts at night during frost fighting season. This is because scheduled outages do not happen during the night, and frosts happen on still nights where there is little to no risk of weather damage. The biggest risk is actually cars hitting power poles and possums shorting wires.

A diesel generator with enough capacity that would also cost 50 - 60 thousand dollars, and would defeat our goal of growing commercial amounts of quality cherries with zero fossil fuels! It would also be a huge waste of capital for something you would barely ever use.

Getting insurance against frost damage is almost impossible now due the the effects of climate change and more severe and unpredictable weather patterns. But we didn't want insurance against a frost, we wanted insurance against a power cut, which stopped us operating our business and led to a loss of income.

After being rejected by multiple insurance providers, who were unwilling to think outside the square, we were fortunate enough to find an innovative rural insurance broker in GSI Partners. Sean from GSI saw the opportunity to create a new type of policy for farmers, so they can decarbonise with confidence.

Sean, Mike, Suzy and Sonya standing in front of Vero tent at A&P Show
Sean Lysaght (GSI Partners), Mike Casey (NZO, Forest Lodge), Suzy Moore and Sonya Whitney (Vero Insurance)

Through GSI and in partnership with Vero, we were able to design and create an insurance policy for farmers to insure against income loss caused by accidental power outages.

On November 10th, we had the privilege of launching this insurance product to the world at the A&P Show at the Vero tent in Christchurch.

We are now in the position to roll this policy out to other farmers, so that they can decarbonise with confidence. So if you can think of any situation where the risk of a power cut is stopping you from electrifying, please contact GSI Partners!

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