Stories

A clean and connected energy future for Alice Springs

Aug 14, 2020

An ambi­tious project to trans­form the Alice Springs elec­tric­i­ty sys­tem will gen­er­ate impor­tant lessons, which are expect­ed to assist Australia’s tran­si­tion to a renew­able ener­gy future. 

The project, called Alice Springs Future Grid, is led by the Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy and involves mul­ti­ple organ­i­sa­tions from across the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry and Aus­tralia. Ener­gy experts will work togeth­er to iden­ti­fy and remove bar­ri­ers to fur­ther renew­able ener­gy pen­e­tra­tion, through a num­ber of inter­de­pen­dent sub-projects, over the next two years. 

Sys­tem mod­el­ling, house­hold bat­tery pilot stud­ies, the devel­op­ment of new tar­iff options, and micro­grid tri­als are all part of Alice Springs Future Grid. The project will cul­mi­nate in the pro­duc­tion of a Roadmap to 2030, explain­ing how the Alice Springs pow­er sys­tem can be con­fig­ured to sup­port an increas­ing pro­por­tion of renew­able energy. 

The com­mu­ni­ty is play­ing a grow­ing role in the ener­gy sys­tem, and Future Grid will inves­ti­gate how dis­trib­uted ener­gy resources — such as house­hold bat­ter­ies and rooftop solar — and exist­ing infra­struc­ture can work togeth­er to cre­ate a clean, reli­able and afford­able ener­gy supply. 

Intyal­heme Gen­er­al Man­ag­er Tris­tan Simons said the rise of the pro­sumer’ had brought about oppor­tu­ni­ties and challenges.

Res­i­dents and busi­ness­es are more engaged and will­ing par­tic­i­pants in the ener­gy tran­si­tion, but man­ag­ing this increas­ing engage­ment pos­es its own set of tech­ni­cal and social chal­lenges,” Mr Simons said. 

Alice Springs has a strong his­to­ry com­mu­ni­ty buy-in and engage­ment with solar,” he said. 

Com­bined with our 300 sun­ny days a year, we believe Alice Springs is at the fore­front of the ener­gy tran­si­tion, and is the opti­mal loca­tion to test a series of inter­ven­tions on a large scale.”

The Uterne Solar Pow­er Sta­tion in Alice Springs. The Future Grid project is remov­ing bar­ri­ers to fur­ther renew­able ener­gy in the Alice Springs elec­tric­i­ty system.

The organ­i­sa­tions involved include Pow­er and Water Cor­po­ra­tion, Ter­ri­to­ry Gen­er­a­tion, Jacana Ener­gy, Desert Knowl­edge Aus­tralia, Ekisti­ca, and the Arid Lands Envi­ron­ment Cen­tre (ALEC).

The Com­mon­wealth Sci­ence and Indus­tri­al Research Organ­i­sa­tion (CSIRO) is a Con­sor­tium Mem­ber, as well as the project’s Knowl­edge Shar­ing Part­ner. CSIRO Ener­gy Sys­tems Research Direc­tor, Dr John Ward, said Future Grid would deliv­er the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence – com­mu­ni­ty, eco­nom­ic and tech­ni­cal – to sup­port a tran­si­tion to 50% renew­able ener­gy by 2030 and pro­vide the path­way to 100%.

The lessons we learn here will direct­ly inform Australia’s clean ener­gy tran­si­tion,” Dr Ward said. 

The chal­lenge is one of sys­tem inte­gra­tion – not just of gen­er­a­tion. Achiev­ing this tran­si­tion for an elec­tric­i­ty sys­tem of this size means that elec­tri­cal sys­tem ser­vices such as bal­anc­ing pow­er deliv­ery and reg­u­lat­ing fre­quen­cy – ser­vices nor­mal­ly pro­vid­ed by con­ven­tion­al fos­sil fuel-based gen­er­a­tion — will need to be achieved through renew­able ener­gy sys­tems,” he said. 

We know that large-scale bat­ter­ies can pro­vide these sys­tem ser­vices, but accu­rate siz­ing and con­trol is need­ed to ensure reli­able and secure elec­tric­i­ty at an afford­able price.”

The lessons we learn here will direct­ly inform Australia’s clean ener­gy transition.”

Dr John Ward, CSIRO Ener­gy Sys­tems Research Director

The Alice Springs pow­er sys­tem is often said to be small enough to man­age, but big enough to matter’.

It is both a mas­sive scale-up com­pared to exist­ing renew­able micro­grids; and a micro­cosm of the chal­lenges faced on large inter­con­nect­ed sys­tems, such as the Aus­tralian Nation­al Ener­gy Mar­ket, with lessons learnt applic­a­ble to both,” said Dr Ward.

The DKA Solar Cen­tre in Alice Springs forms part of a strong his­to­ry of renew­able ener­gy inno­va­tion in Cen­tral Australia

Alice Springs Future Grid received fund­ing from ARE­NA as part of its Advanc­ing Renew­ables Pro­gram. The project is also fund­ed by the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment Depart­ment of Indus­try, Sci­ence, Ener­gy and Resources through the Region­al and Remote Com­mu­ni­ties Reli­a­bil­i­ty Fund – Micro­grids Pro­gram

Intyal­heme has fund­ed about a quar­ter of Future Grid through seed fund­ing pro­vid­ed by the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Gov­ern­ment, and the rest of the $12.5m com­pris­es con­tri­bu­tions from par­tic­i­pant organisations.

Vis­it the Alice Springs Future Grid website

More Info

Other Intyalheme Stories

DKA Hosts Their Excellencies, General the Honourable David Hurley and Mrs Linda Hurley

Aug 10, 2020

Desert Knowledge Australia was honoured to host His Excel­len­cy the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley, at the Desert Knowledge Precinct.

New leader for Intyalheme

Jul 21, 2020

The Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy is pleased to announce that Tristan Simons has been appointed to the role of General Manager.

Intyalheme awarded $3.2m Microgrid grant

Jun 05, 2020

Intyalheme will lead a project to increase renewable energy uptake through the development of microgrid technology.