Energy experts are working to break through barriers in the Alice Springs power system, aiming to enable more renewable energy to be generated.
On average, around 10 per cent of the power used in Alice Springs comes from solar energy. Rooftop solar continues to gain popularity locally, and Australia is the world leader in the uptake of rooftop solar per capita: an estimated two million homes now have photovoltaic (PV) panels installed.
However, it is difficult to fit further renewable energy into the Alice Springs grid at present, due to various technical and regulatory constraints. These include having to keep several gas engines running every day to provide grid stability to a level that isn’t currently achievable through solar.
This problem affects power systems globally, and Alice Springs is one of the first networks to reach solar limits. Energy experts from across Australia are interested in developing solutions, because the knowledge generated can be applied to larger grids, such as the NEM, which connects jurisdictions between Queensland and South Australia.
A series of innovative solutions are being investigated as part of a project known as Alice Springs Future Grid, which is being led by the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy.
Alice Springs is one of the first power networks to reach solar limits
Northern Territory Minister for Renewables, Energy & Essential Services, Dale Wakefield, said Alice Springs was the ideal environment for rapid, cost-effective demonstrations of systems solutions.
“The Territory Labor Government has a target of 50% renewables by 2030 which will deliver local jobs, and cheaper, cleaner power,” Minister Wakefield said.
“To achieve this target, we require practical and innovative engineering solutions to overcome technical barriers. We established Intyalheme to help find these solutions.
“By engaging the community, industry and government in projects such as Future Grid, we will be able to increase renewables to move towards a lower carbon future.”
Minister Wakefield will be one of four speakers, helping to outline the current situation for the Alice Springs power system at a public event on Saturday August 10, at the DKA Solar Centre.
The event, called Our Bright Solar Future: learning from our leaders, forms part of the desertSMART EcoFair and takes place at the DKA Solar Centre from 2.30pm.
Off-grid experts Dow Airen from Power and Water Corporation and DICE Australia director Raymond Pratt will also be part of the line-up.
They will be joined by Electrical Engineer Clare Paynter, from Alice Springs technical consultancy Ekistica, who will explain the complex collection of factors needed to successfully run a power system.
“In Alice Springs we’re really on our own,” Ms Paynter said.
“Alice Springs is an off-grid system, but it’s a pretty complicated off-grid system, with lots of different players. We think it’s like the larger interconnected power systems you see on the East Coast. The difference is, we have to solve our challenges ourselves.”
After the discussion afternoon tea will be served and Ekistica engineers will lead tours of the DKA Solar Centre.