Stories

Our Bright Solar Future

Aug 08, 2019

Services: Intyalheme

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.

Please find fur­ther details on the Face­book event page

Feel free to watch the Livestream record­ing of the very suc­cess­ful event below.

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