Daly River Project: Remote Communities Trial Renewable Energy

The first remote community in the NT powered by renewable solar and battery energy.

BY Sophia Golovanevskaya

With the announcement released earlier this month of a new $55 million Solar Energy Transformation Program (SETuP), Daly River will become the first remote community in the Northern Territory to be largely powered by renewable solar and battery energy.

As well as providing jobs for local Indigenous people in construction, fencing, installation and flora and fauna surveying, SETuP will save 400,000 litres of diesel fuel per year. The two-megawatt lithium ion battery will be charged by 3,200 solar panels, and is promised to provide a cleaner and quieter system for the locals to manage.

The project is jointly funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Northern Territory Government, while being managed by Power and Water. According to the ARENA Chief Executive Officer, Ivor Frischknecht, the Daly River energy trial will set an influential example of how renewable ‘clean’ energy can provide a safe, economic and environmentally friendly way to reduce our current reliance on diesel fuels.

Mr. Frischknecht believes that as battery costs reduce over the coming years, it will be in the surrounding community’s best interests to seek more economic alternatives to otherwise traditional ways of power sourcing.

“We’re excited to see the outcomes of the Daly River installation which will help guide deployment of more renewable energy in other remote communities as the technology becomes more cost effective,” Mr. Frischknecht says.

Michael Thomson, Chief Executive of Power and Water, is also extremely supportive of the trial, claiming that the project will be able to accurately demonstrate exactly how dependable this technology can be. The installed solar charged battery will be able to generate one whole megawatt of solar energy, which is equivalent to approximately an average eight-and-a-half-kilowatt reverse cycle air conditioner, running full power, 24/7, for 50 days straight. This will be able to cover half of the town’s energy needs, thus reducing the need for diesel powered energy by 50 percent.

Although the specific length of the trial period has not yet been determined, the Daly River project is expected to encourage other remote communities across Australia to deploy more renewable energy sources. Solar powered technologies are becoming more advanced, and are set to drop further in price in the future, allowing savings on maintenance and diesel energy to increase. Not only does the project allow for cheaper energy sources, it also provides jobs to those in remote areas. The successes of these trials may be able to determine which direction other remote communities will choose to follow.

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