Solar and battery plant to displace “Olympic pools” of diesel in APY Lands

A megawatt-scale solar and battery storage system is being installed by the South Australian government at a power station in the remote Aboriginal community of Umuwa, to deliver a cleaner and more reliable power supply across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the state’s north.

South Australia minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said on Wednesday that a $9 million project was being undertaken to install 3MW of solar PV and 1MW of battery storage at the Central Power House in Umawa – a system that would generate 4.4GWh a year of renewable, emissions-free energy.

The currently diesel-powered Central Power House is the primary generation facility for the communities of the APY Lands, delivering electricity via a 33kV central distribution system that runs about 110km west to Amata, 70km north-east to Pukatja and Yunyarinyi and 170km south-east to Kaltjiti (Fregon), Mimili and Iwantja (Indulkana).

The installation of the solar and battery energy storage system at the facility, which is being led by Next Generation Electrical, will shift its fuel source to about 40 per cent renewables, the government said, drastically reducing both pollution and costs.

“The current reliance on diesel at Umuwa means that the state government spends about $3.6 million on diesel fuel and associated transport costs, creating 7.6 million tonnes a year of carbon dioxide pollution,” said van Holst Pellekaan in a statement on Wednesday.

“Last financial year, the Central Power House at Umuwa consumed about 2.8 million litres of diesel to supply electricity to APY customers – that’s more than an Olympic swimming pool of diesel fuel,” he said.

The minister said that as well as reducing the plant’s carbon footprint and diesel costs – which come from both use and freight – the solar and battery upgrade would introduce more advanced technologies to improve reliability at the remote site.

“This remotely monitoring technology means that we can detect faults in real time, so that we can reduce the length of unplanned outages and increase the reliability of supply.”

It will also create between 30-40 jobs, engage the services of local indigenous business and give APY community members the opportunity to be involved in the development of electrical infrastructure projects, van Holst Pellekaan said.

“This is a great example of building back better, providing stimulus to create jobs and skills, and reduce costs and pollution.”

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