Solar and battery "pod" to power a north Queensland farm, in govt-backed trial

Port of Townsville Chief Financial Officer David Sibley, MITEZ’s David Fuelcal and Ergon Energy’s Mark Biffanti, Photo: Budd Photography.

A Belgian-made renewable power “pod” combining solar, battery storage and a generator will be installed on a farm in north-west Queensland, as part of a state and local government-backed bid to offer more reliable and affordable electricity for rural properties.
The Intech Energy Container arrived at Port of Townsville last week, as the centre-piece of a one-year, $100,000 trial backed by the Queensland government, McKinlay Shire Council, and MITEZ – a regional development organisation covering seven local government areas in the state’s north.
The pod will supply a yet-to-be selected McKinlay Shire grazier with an off-grid renewable energy supply and in conjunction with Ergon Energy, measure the benefits, comparing cost and reliability of supply to that offered by standard Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) network.
“SWER lines span hundreds of properties across North West Queensland that could benefit from this independent power source,” said McKinlay Shire Council Mayor Belinda Murphy.
It could also benefit the network, too, which in McKinley Shire alone oversees 698km of Single Wire Earth Return lines, linking 154 customers.
According to a North Queensland Register report in March, sustained interruption times have averaged 2.45 hours over the past five years, with Ergon Energy set to invest $1.46 million on the Julia Creek network over the next three years, while also looking at alternative options.
Murphy said another focus of the trial was to test if the European designed pods could withstand the climate conditions of the Queensland outback.
Council said a total of 26 property holders had applied to trail the pod at their property, with the recipient to be awarded by public ballot at Julia Creek in December, and Ergon to advise on site suitability and conduct onsite energy audits.
During the course of the one-year trial, any other interested parties will be able to view the system by appointment through McKinlay Shire Council.
“This is an innovative and collaborative trial to look to the future potential of delivering power to our remote properties with improved reliability and reduction in cost using new technology,” said Glen Graham, the CEO of MITEZ, which awarded a $55,000 grant to the project.
“This project is a fantastic example of the innovative ideas getting off the ground thanks to the Queensland government’s Remote Area Board fund,” he said.
“This is exactly the type of activity we need to see in regional areas to grow economic diversity and create jobs.”

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