The integration of 10MW of solar PV – and one 2MWh battery storage system – with off-grid power stations across 25 remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory has been completed, after the roll out of a final 15 projects.
The NT’s government-owned Power and Water Corporation said last week that it had completed the $59 million program, that had been jointly funded by the NT and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The goal of the Solar Energy Transformation Program (SETuP) project – which was said to be the largest roll-out of solar to remote Australian communities – was to cut diesel use in those communities by 15 per cent, or by 94 million litres over the 25-year life of the program.
“This is a fantastic achievement for all involved in completing this ambitious project to deliver the largest rollout of renewable energy to remote, off grid communities in the Northern Territory,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller in comments last week.
“By installing solar power systems across these 25 communities, this project will help these communities to reduce their reliance on diesel… increase their uptake of renewables and have the option to add batteries to store their solar energy in the future.
Beyond the cost cutting and obvious environmental benefits, Power and Water CEO Michael Thomson said SETuP was delivering other key benefits for the communities involved.
“We successfully increased the understanding of how solar power creates efficiencies, improves air quality, reduces number of heavy vehicles travelling in and out of a community and reduces greenhouse gas emissions through proactive communication and engagement.
“The program has been received positively and community leaders have been actively engaged to contribute to its successful delivery. The work is also contributing to the Northern Territory Government’s target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030,” he said.
As we have reported, the project first kicked off in 2017, with an initial roll out of 3.325MW of PV into diesel power systems across 10 remote Indigenous communities.
This included the installation of 1MW of solar at the Nauiyu community in Daly River, south of Darwin, to which a 2MWh lithium-ion battery system was added.
The addition of battery storage at Daily River – a one-off in the SETuP project, done for research purposes – has meant the community can run on solar only during the day.
A second round in 2018 installed solar at a further 15 Territory sites, including the off-grid Tiwi Island community of Wurrumiyanga, where a 1MW array now supplies solar power to three communities on Bathurst and Melville Islands, via an interconnection project.
“It’s actually transforming the way that Power and Water is delivering power, going from basically diesel power stations to these solar hybrid stations,” Power and Water senior project manager Andrew Gray told ABC Radio’s Country Hour in September last year.
“Considering Power and Water has over a $30 million diesel budget, it’s big dollars that we’re talking about.
“For the community, there’s less fuel being burnt, so less pollution, there’s less barge deliveries… there’s less truck deliveries. So I guess in the long-term it will make the communities more sustainable.”
Power and Water also has two further and separate solar power stations under construction – one at Borroloola in Katherine, and one at Timber Creek, roughly halfway between Katherine and Kununurra.