Keeping the Lights on Down Under

Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, announced that the country’s Northern Territory will receive funding of AUD $487,620 (US$ 366,000) for three new renewable energy projects. This funding will be used to undertake a renewable energy feasibility study for three diesel powered sites in the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park, to maximize power available from solar arrays and to develop and deliver training resources for the servicing and maintenance of remote area power supplies.

Campbell also announced changes to the Australian Government’s Renewable Remote Power Generation Program (RRPGP) that make it easier for electricity users in remote areas of Australia to access cleaner and healthier energy sources. The AUD $206 million (US$ 155 million) program provides rebates for the installation of renewable generation equipment in remote parts of the country. The aim of the RRPGP is to displace the use of diesel fuel used for electricity generation by increasing the uptake of renewable generation technologies in remote locations, usually without access to the main electricity grid. Many people, businesses and towns in remote locations rely on diesel generators for the provision of electricity. The Australian Greenhouse Office estimates that about 700 million liters of diesel are consumed each year in Australia for the generation of electricity in remote areas. Due to the high costs of maintaining and fuelling diesel generators, many remote households make do with electricity only being available for 8 to 12 hours a day. Renewable power generation (usually photovoltaic panels and wind turbines), combined with inverters and batteries, can provide access to affordable 24-hour power. “Displacing fossil fuels with renewable energy such as solar and wind power not only benefits the environment, but also improves the lifestyle of Australians living in remote parts of the country, giving them greater access to electricity, reducing noise and air pollution and reducing the costs of transporting fuel over long distances,” Campbell said. Funding for the program is expected to be about $206 million (US$ 155 million) and is based on the relevant diesel fuel excise paid by remote public power generators in the financial years 2000-01 to 2003-04. The changes included and extension of the deadline for expenditure of funds to 2012; increasing eligibility for proposals to reduce any fossil fuel usage, not just diesel; increasing the maximum rebate level available for some projects; and expanding eligibility to include solar thermal, energy efficiency and projects on the fringe of the main grid. “These projects and the changes to the Programme?will provide further benefits for remote regions of Australia, giving more people the opportunity to cut their use of diesel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They will also give industry a boost, improving their training capacity and investigating innovative solutions to the supply of electricity in remote areas.” More on the new projects: Uluru – Kata Tjuta Renewable Energy Feasibility Study – up to $25,000 This study will investigate the feasibility of incorporating photovoltaic generation in the diesel power systems at three sites in the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park. The study involves the analysis of load data for the three sites, a walk through energy audit and an investigation into suitable sites for installing solar arrays and essential enabling equipment, full design, initial capital costing and lifecycle costing for the recommended options. Improved Photovoltaic Array Efficiencies Project – $97,620 This project will investigate the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of improving the performance of photovoltaic arrays by mounting maximum power point trackers (MPPTs) on individual solar panels. This differs from standard installations where a single MPPT is used to optimize current and voltage to maximize the power available from a string of solar panels. Modeling undertaken by innovative NT company In Motion Technologies indicates that this approach could increase power output by as much as 20 percent. The NT Power and Water Corporation have agreed to the use their photovoltaic array facility at Jilkminggan for testing and will also provide further in-kind support in the form of independent analysis of data and results. Remote Area Power Supply (RAPS) Servicing Training Project – $365,000 This project will develop course resources required to obtain the national Certificate II in Remote Area Power Supply (RAPS) Servicing qualification. The course resources will include fourteen modules covering eleven competency areas to develop skills in RAPS servicing and maintenance. The project will be undertaken by the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), a Registered Training Organization focused on indigenous services and training that is based in Alice Springs. A national reference group, including the Australian Greenhouse Office, will guide the project. The project also includes delivery of the course in Alice Springs as well as in six remote locations by December 2005. Training will consist of a series of workshops and on-the-job training.

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