The Ayers Rock Resort near Uluru in Central Australia will now source around 15 per cent of its annual energy needs from solar PV, after the completion of a 1.8MW installation at the remote hotel and camping complex.
The 5,770-module array, which was partially funded by a $4.7 million loan from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, was built by solar installer Epuron, which will continue to own and maintain the $7 million system.
Epuron was also behind the expansion of the Uterne solar power station at Alice Springs – completed last August – again with the assistance of CEFC financing.
The Ayers Rock Resort installation – which is called Tjintu, meaning “sun” in the local Pitjantjatjara language – will cover up to 30 per cent of the daytime energy needs of the resort, which is owned by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.
“It’s encouraging to see this iconic globally-recognised resort, the gateway to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, take a renewable energy leadership role by making the most of central Australia’s solar potential to generate energy and remaining sensitive to the environment,” said CEFC CEO Oliver Yates in September last year, when the funding was originally announced.
In a statement on Tuesday, Yates said the completed solar PV array had also displaced expensive and inefficient power generated using trucked-in fuel with clean on-site power.
“It was economic in its own right and better for the environment,” he said.
“We’re pleased that CEFC finance has helped encourage additional private sector investment in renewable energy and is helping to build technical experience in this sector.”
The project has also attracted the attention of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which is providing $450,000 in funding to Voyages to analyse and promote the learning and expertise gained in the development of the solar array.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project was exciting and significant because it demonstrated that solar PV was economically viable in remote Australian locations.
“Voyages was able to build the solar installation with limited government support, using an operational lease model never before delivered at this scale. As a result, it will benefit from significant savings in the Resort’s power expenses over the next 20 years,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“The knowledge generated and shared through this project will help other remote and off-grid power users to build on Voyages’ work and determine whether switching to renewable energy makes sense for them.”