A comprehensive guide has been produced to assist those involved in the procurement, deployment and maintenance of off-grid solar power systems in remote areas of the Northern Territory.
The Off-Grid Guide was produced by Intyalheme in collaboration with Ekistica, an Alice Springs-based technical consultancy. It leverages the knowledge generated since the start of the Bushlight program (2002−2013) which led to the installation of more than 150 new stand-alone power systems across the homelands and outstations of Central and Northern Australia.
“The Bushlight program was originally developed in response to widespread failures in the deployment of off-grid systems in remote communities,” said Paul Rodden, who authored the majority of the document.
“The Off-Grid Guide aims to ensure the knowledge and experience gained since that time is retained and shared with those who are most likely to need it, so we can avoid repeating old mistakes.”
Mr Rodden said the success of Bushlight was thanks to good community engagement and a long-term approach, with an emphasis on quality and capacity-building among the residents and energy consumers, support agencies, and industry.
Since Bushlight ended, a number of agencies have taken on the role of maintaining the systems. The funding of new systems or upgrades is a complex area which can be impacted by time-limited grants, funds that might not stretch to cover maintenance, and other challenges.
Mr Rodden said he would like to see appropriate funding directed to the ongoing maintenance of existing systems, as well as further capacity-building to support their use.
“It is important that new systems deployed in communities are of a high quality and suited to the community’s actual needs, which requires genuine community consultation,” he said.
Paul Rodden and Minister Wakefield launch the Off-Grid Guide
The Bushlight program was run by the Centre for Appropriate Technology, the Indigenous-controlled parent company of Ekistica.
The Off-Grid Guide was officially launched in August 2019 by Northern Territory Minister for Renewables, Energy and Essential Services, Dale Wakefield. An information session was held in Darwin on November 27, 2019, to highlight the available knowledge for the benefit of industry representatives and policy makers.