Why Alice Springs?

Alice Springs is a major cen­tre for remote Aus­tralia, locat­ed 1500 km from Ade­laide and Dar­win. 

Alice Springs is one of three main grids in the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry. The Dar­win-Kather­ine grid ser­vices 200,000 peo­ple, the Ten­nant Creek Grid ser­vices 3,000 peo­ple, and the Alice Springs grid ser­vices 30,000 peo­ple. The oth­er com­mu­ni­ties (includ­ing Yulara) are self-suf­fi­cient micogrids, pow­ered by diesel gen­er­a­tors and solar energy. 

The Roadmap to Renew­ables report by the Renew­able Ener­gy Expert Pan­el to the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Gov­ern­ment cel­e­brat­ed the knowl­edge, capa­bil­i­ty and exper­tise in renew­able ener­gy tech­nol­o­gy that had already been acquired in the NT — espe­cial­ly in Alice Springs. 

There is con­sid­er­able val­ue in build­ing on this exist­ing infra­struc­ture, knowl­edge and exper­tise. In par­tic­u­lar, Alice Springs offers an excel­lent loca­tion to devel­op and under­stand the require­ments of a city with a high pen­e­tra­tion of solar ener­gy. In addi­tion, the lessons learnt in Alice Springs can be applied across the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry … Alice Springs will also pro­vide an ide­al loca­tion for new research and devel­op­ment pro­grams, tri­als, demon­stra­tion projects and oth­er ini­tia­tives.” 
- Renew­able Ener­gy Expert Pan­el
Roadmap to Renewables

Alice Springs is small enough to man­age and big enough to matter

Alice Springs is a reg­u­lat­ed, struc­tural­ly sep­a­rat­ed grid with char­ac­ter­is­tics that make it a micro­cosm of the Nation­al Ener­gy Mar­ket (NEM), the mas­sive pow­er sys­tem that ser­vices Queens­land, New South Wales, Vic­to­ria, Tas­ma­nia and South Australia. 

As well as serv­ing Alice Springs itself, the grid also ser­vices the com­mu­ni­ties of San­ta Tere­sa (85km south­east of Alice Springs) and Her­manns­burg (130km south­west of Alice Springs), which makes it a long, stringy grid prone to out­ages with the asso­ci­at­ed chal­lenges of man­ag­ing sys­tem strength and voltage. 

Due to tech­ni­cal restraints, the Alice Springs pow­er sys­tem can­not read­i­ly accept more renew­able ener­gy into the grid, despite renew­ables cur­rent­ly only con­tribut­ing 8% of the annu­al ener­gy frac­tion. Alice Springs is fac­ing this chal­lenge now, and the NEM will face the same chal­lenge with­in the next five years. 

    Alice Springs shares sev­er­al defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics with the NEM, albeit on a small­er scale:

    • Pow­er gen­er­a­tion comes from a mix­ture of gas, diesel and solar assets
    • Diverse demand with a mix of res­i­den­tial house­holds, com­merce, light indus­try and an airport
    • Wide rang­ing demand from 60 MW down to 8MW
    • Inde­pen­dent­ly man­aged grids that include both trans­mis­sion and distribution
    • Sim­i­lar mar­ket players
    • Retail con­testa­bil­i­ty

    The Oppor­tu­ni­ty

    As a micro­cosm of the NEM, Alice Springs can rapid­ly test, tri­al and inno­vate on a scale that is mean­ing­ful and cost-effec­tive. The solu­tions that the Alice Springs pow­er sys­tem pro­vides will be applic­a­ble to the NEM and oth­er pow­er sys­tems, with the rest of Aus­tralia look­ing to the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry for answers in the com­ing years. 

    Small invest­ments in Alice Springs can make a huge difference.

    What is the challenge?

    Intyal­heme was estab­lished to assist the NT Gov­ern­ment with the goal of pow­er­ing the Ter­ri­to­ry with 50% renew­ables by 2030

    In Alice Springs, only 8% of the annu­al ener­gy frac­tion is met by renew­ables. Despite enjoy­ing 300 sun­ny days a year, Alice Springs lacks a path­way to reach 50% renew­ables by 2030. No addi­tion­al large-scale solar ener­gy can eas­i­ly be inte­grat­ed into the Alice Springs sys­tem under cur­rent oper­at­ing con­di­tions, due to a reliance on gas machines to pro­vide ancil­lary ser­vices such as fre­quen­cy con­trol and spin­ning reserve which main­tain sys­tem sta­bil­i­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty, ensur­ing that the sup­ply of pow­er can meet the demand. 

    Fre­quen­cy and volt­age con­trol are also increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to man­age. The sin­gle large-scale solar farm in Alice Springs, Uterne Solar Farm, expe­ri­ences reg­u­lar cur­tail­ment, demon­strat­ing there is no cur­rent busi­ness case for more invest­ment in renew­ables in Alice Springs. 

    As a micro­cosm of the NEM, Alice Springs is the per­fect place to devel­op inno­v­a­tive solu­tions that have nation­al relevance. 

    A solar history

    Intyal­heme builds on the strong his­to­ry of renew­able ener­gy projects and exist­ing infra­struc­ture and exper­tise in Alice Springs. The town has led the suc­cess­ful roll­out of solar sys­tems to remote out­sta­tions, been named a Solar City, and has some of the largest and most diverse solar instal­la­tions in the South­ern Hemi­sphere. Busi­ness­es, local gov­ern­ment and the Alice Springs com­mu­ni­ty all invest in solar and are high­ly engaged in dis­cus­sions about renewables. 

    Bush­light 2002 — 2013

    Bush­light was a renew­able ener­gy pro­gram run by the Cen­tre for Appro­pri­ate Tech­nol­o­gy, fol­low­ing a report into Renew­able Ener­gy in Remote Aus­tralian Com­mu­ni­ties, released in 2000. The project enabled com­mu­ni­ty liveli­hood and oppor­tu­ni­ties by pro­vid­ing afford­able and reli­able pow­er. Dur­ing the project, 130 renew­able ener­gy sys­tems were installed across remote North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry, West­ern Aus­tralia and Queensland. 

    Alice Solar City 2008 — 2013

    Alice Springs was one of sev­en areas cho­sen to be a Solar City, fund­ed by the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment. Dur­ing its time, the num­ber of rooftop solar pho­to­volta­ic (PV) sys­tems installed on rooftops across the town rose from two to more than 700Solar Cities pro­vid­ed a $100 mil­lion eco­nom­ic boost for Alice Springs, and left a lega­cy that includ­ed five projects which at the time were the biggest of their type in Australia. 

    Solar SET­uP 2014 — 2019

    The Solar Ener­gy Trans­for­ma­tion Pro­gram, or SET­uP, is a project of Pow­er and Water Cor­po­ra­tion (PWC). It has acti­vat­ed the con­struc­tion of solar sys­tems in 25 remote Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry, total­ing 10MW. It dif­fers from Bush­light in that it focus­es on gazetted com­mu­ni­ties, as opposed to out­sta­tions and homelands.