Pelena was registered as an Australian proprietary company on April 21, 1998 by founding Directors Peter Lynch and Salena Bryce under Australian Company Number (A.C.N) 082 368 330.
Salena had been involved in micro-hydro projects in Solomon Islands since the mid 1970’s and Peter since 1990. Both had been introduced to this wonderful technology through the great work of the volunteers of the Australian NGO, Apace.
During these years, the Directors witnessed a significant quantity of equipment — both in the energy sector and elsewhere — that had been supplied to rural parts of Melanesia, but lay abandoned in a state of failure.
The Directors independently investigated the causes of many of these failures through site visits and consulting many people throughout Melanesia and elsewhere. The conclusion reached, especially with energy projects, was that most of the previously-supplied infrastructure components were only reliable when significant support infrastructure existed nearby, such as engineering workshops, skilled technical labour, efficient communication networks, and fast & reliable transportation systems.
The low population density of Melanesia coupled with mountainous terrain and/or multiple islands presents significant difficulties with infrastructure support services as domestic air and sea travel are very (energy) expensive when compared to wheeled transportation services offered by roads.
It became clear to the Directors why Melanesia often struggles to maintain the same level of infrastructure reliability that many Western countries enjoy.
The Directors, in conjunction with many Solomon Islander friends and colleagues, decided that an opportunity existed for both a new range of products and a new method of delivery and support service.
Focusing initially on micro-hydroelectric turbines, Pelena commenced designing a range of turbines with significant commonality of component parts. In addition, Pelena established in-country spare parts and support services.
Turbines were designed primarily using stainless steels for long life. Requirements for specialised maintenance tools were reduced.
The intention was to produce quality, reliable, and supportable products that were suited for both the environments of ‘modern, advanced, infrastructure rich countries’ as well as countries with little infrastructure and extremely remote locations.
The success of these turbines — as demonstrated by their continued operation — resulted in an expansion of Pelena’s technology philosophy to other equipment. The priority aims remained to be:
- Offering support services to existing and future projects and products — however remote;
- Establishing and supporting independent enterprise development in the rural areas of developing nations, particularly those in the South Pacific;
- Developing other rural-development technologies and support services, specifically targeting multi-island nations with predominately rural populace; and
- Offering engineering design and consultancy services.
Challenges with supporting the above aims resulted in Pelena Energy branching into different areas including:
- Solar Photovoltaic home lighting kits — kits that could be supported and not made obsolete overnight;
- Water transport to rural people;
- Use of coconut oil as a fuel for transportation and power generation; and
- Production of coconut oil in the rural areas.
In 2006 Pelena Energy relocated to the NSW rural town of Dorrigo. This was a strategic move for the following reasons:
- Our focus is with rural people, therefore it suits for us to be located in a rural area;
- Dorrigo is near to major airports and other transportation infrastructure; and
- The Dorrigo Community had demonstrated a willingness and enthusiasm to be adventurous and forward-thinking in a rural context. Dorrigo offers opportunities for demonstrations of renewable energy technologies in the fields of interest to Pelena.