Our Bright Solar Future

Aug 08, 2019

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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