Renewable energy

Power and Water is pursuing renewable energy opportunities to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing electricity in the Territory.

In particular, renewable energy can provide a reliable, cost effective and more environmentally sustainable electricity supply for remote communities, which predominantly rely on diesel fuel for power generation.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is energy that can be used without depleting its primary source reserves. Sources include solar, wind, wave, biomass, hydro, geothermal and tidal.

Solar power is the most popular renewable energy in the Northern Territory. 

Uterne (Alice Springs) one megawatt solar power station

Uterne (pronounced "u-turn-ay") is Australia's largest tracking solar power system, providing Alice Springs with power since 2011.

The one megawatt (MW) solar power plant has the capacity to provide energy for approximately 288 average Alice Springs homes.

The Uterne solar power station, built on four hectares at Arumbera on the outskirts of Alice Springs, consists of more than 3,000 high-efficiency SunPower mono-crystalline solar panels which track the sun across the sky.

Uterne means "bright, sunny day" in the local Arrernte language.

Power and Water identified the need to provide all Alice Springs residents with access to renewable energy and worked with Alice Solar City and SunPower to develop the solar power station. The solar power station enables all Alice Springs residents, renters and home owners alike, with an opportunity to invest in their own renewable future. 

Uterne is wholly owned by Epuron, an Australian renewable energy company.

Solar photovoltaic power stations

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels convert solar energy into electricity.

Power and Water has photovoltaic systems in five remote communities; Hermannsburg, Yuendumu, Lajamanu, Bulman and Kings Canyon, with a combined capacity of more than one megawatt.

Bulman in Arnhem Land and Kings Canyon in the Red Centre use flat-plate solar photovoltaic technology to reduce the consumption of distillate.

These panels are robust, transportable and easy to install and add about 30% capacity to the power plants. This allows the smaller diesel engines to run more efficiently as the solar power "lops" the peak load without the need for costly storage batteries.

The Bulman solar power station was completed in November 2002 and is rated at 56kW peak capacity, with the potential to save about 70 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

The Kings Canyon solar power station was completed in December 2003 and is rated at 241kW peak capacity. The solar system supports the electricity needs of the tourist resort facility. The project, worth $3.6 million, was at the time the largest single installation of its kind in Australia.

The solar panels at Bulman and Kings Canyon have an expected life of 25 years.

Concentrated photovoltaic power stations

Concentrated photovoltaic systems (CPV), a technology provided by Solar Systems Pty Ltd, have been operating in three remote communities since 2005. A total of 30 CPV dishes are installed across Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Lajamanu and Yuendumu and are collectively saving about 420,000 litres of distillate per annum.

The CPV dishes are 14 metres wide with 130 square metres of curved mirrors, which concentrate the sun 500 times and generate about 20kW peak of electricity each.

High penetration solar photovoltaic power stations

Construction of three solar power stations in the remote communities of Ti Tree, Kalkarindgi and Alpurrurulam (Lake Nash) is complete.

A total of one million watts of solar panels have been installed, supplying up to 80% of the electricity demand of the communities during the day.

The solar power stations reduce the volume of diesel required to power the three communities and deliver substantial savings of around 1,200 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

Power and Water has signed a power purchase agreement with TKLN Solar Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Epuron Pty Ltd, to build and operate the three solar power stations. Conergy Australia and Epuron, as wholly owned subsidiaries of Conergy AG, have been part of this renewable energy project from design stage through to construction.

Rooftop PV systems

Over the past three years, more than 2,000 Territorians have installed solar PV systems on the roofs of their homes. Power and Water offers to purchase the power generated by these systems as well as the certificates they generate, under the Federal Government's Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.

Wind turbines

Along with the solar power system, a wind energy system consisting of three 15kW wind turbines is installed at Alpurrurulam operating overnight to supplement the high penetration solar power station which operates during the day. The combination of daytime solar and night time wind maximizes the use of renewable energy at Alpurrurulam.

Landfill gas

Methane gas is constantly being generated in landfill sites such as the Shoal Bay site in Darwin. A 1MW generator which generates electricity from this energy source has been installed by LMS Pty Ltd at Shoal Bay and has been connected to the grid since August 2005. The generator currently produces about 9,000MWh of renewable energy per annum and saves about 5,500 tonnes of greenhouse gases.
Methane gas is 20 times more harmful as greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. By capturing the gas and converting it to electricity the LMS generator is preventing methane from entering our environment.

Biodiesel

Power and Water is actively exploring options available to substitute diesel fuel with biodiesel fuel for remote power generation.

A trial was undertaken at the Daly Waters power station where one of the generators ran on 100% biodiesel fuel.

Future plans

Power and Water continues to explore renewable technologies including tidal, bio-fuels, wind, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic to keep abreast of the best available technologies to incorporate into our systems.

In early 2011, Power and Water released an invitation for companies to submit an expression of interest to supply a large-scale renewable energy power station in the 5MW to 50MW range with a nominal target of 30MW, to be connected to the Darwin to Katherine integrated system. The strong interest from the market in a range of renewable energy technologies will be used for Power and Water to take the next steps in integrating utility scale renewable energy on the largest power grid in the Northern Territory.