In a journey that started with a single wind turbine, the Western Australia eco-tourism destination of Rottnest Island will soon be powered by 75 per cent renewables, as part of a $62 million state government funded upgrade to its energy and water infrastructure.
The Labor McGowan government revealed late last week that it would upgrade and boost the island’s existing wind and solar generation capacity, add a grid-scale battery energy storage system to the mix, and upgrade the power distribution network.
The works will include a doubling of the existing 600kW solar farm near the Rottnest Island airport, and the replacement of the existing 600kW wind turbine with two “smaller contemporary units” that would increase practical capacity and efficiency.
No details were given on the size of the battery, its role in the renewable energy microgrid, or on the contractor that would be delivering the upgrade to the Rottnest Island energy network.
The government says the network upgrades will also facilitate the phasing out of LPG powered appliances on the island, and accommodate increased renewable capacity required to service the island’s growing fleet of electric vehicles and power its desalinated water supply.
“Powering Rottnest Island with 75 per cent renewable energy will be a major achievement and I’m pleased we have the financial capacity to provide this investment now,” said WA premier Mark McGowan in a statement.
“The major reduction in emissions is a huge boost to efficiently running the island and in turn, benefits local businesses, operators and visitors.
“These infrastructure enhancements come at a critical time where we expect to see future growth on the island as WA reconnects with the world,” McGowan said.
“We are making these improvements in a way that is sustainable for future generations.”
Rottnest Island, off the south-west coast of Western Australia, currently meets its 45% of its 5GWh of annual electricity demand with renewables, with the 1200kW mix of wind and solar that can supply up to 95% renewables when conditions allow.
Before the ARENA-backed addition of the 600kW solar farm, the island’s one turbine gained some notoriety – including its own Twitter presence – when it was revealed as the original inspiration for the deep-seated anti-wind sentiment of former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Installed in 2004, the wind turbine had worked alongside five conventional diesel engines and two low-load diesel engines to supply power at Rottnest, including the demand generated by its desalination plant, the only source of potable water for the island.
The $4.8 million addition of the solar farm by Hydro Tasmania in 2015, coupled with the same sort of smart controls the Tassie-based utility has used on the Bass Strait’s King Island, allowed Rottnest to almost halve its diesel fuel consumption.
State tourism minister Roger Cook said the government’s latest investment in the Island’s energy supply would showcase how sustainable tourism could be delivered at scale in Western Australia.
“Rottnest Island is the jewel in our tourism crown, being a destination of choice for many Western Australians and a drawcard for interstate and international visitors.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace the island’s ageing critical infrastructure, some of which dates back over 40 years.”