Among the main challenges that communities face in Australia is around access to electricity, especially in the more remote parts of the country. Often, it is uneconomical to supply these communities with mains power from the national grid, leaving them dependent on energy sources like diesel generators that have been brought in to meet their energy needs.
However there has also been a growing shift towards solar power in the last few months and years, with a growing number of communities choosing to use renewables as their main form of electricity. By integrating a renewable solution into their existing generation capacities, these remote communities are able to be self sufficient, while also reducing their carbon footprint.
Northern Territory powered by the sun
In recent months, the Northern Territory has seen a substantial investment in solar power, specifically to meet the needs of remote communities. This new development involves implementing solar panels in 30 remote communities.
The project will see a total of more than 30 megawatts of new solar panels installed across these communities. Larger installations will also have battery storage capabilities and cloud mapping technology that adds greater depth of service to these remote communities.
All of these solar installations will be integrated into existing diesel power stations to create diesel/solar hybrid production. The average solar installation will offset 15 per cent of the fossil fuel consumption of each site, while the largest installation will replace 50 per cent of the diesel currently being burnt on site.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht stated this new project demonstrated the viability of hybrid diesel/solar generation.
“One of our goals with this project is to show it makes good economic sense to utilise existing infrastructure in off-grid communities and to roll out robust solar photovoltaic that is suited to the environment and conditions in remote Australia,” said Mr Frischknecht.
“Importantly, the project will demonstrate the enormous advantages of solar/diesel hybrid systems in delivering cost-effective, reliable and safe power to remote locations.”
Hybrid systems become portable
The Northern Territory isn’t the only area of the country to benefit from an increasing investment in hybrid systems, with Queensland also trialling an innovative solution to the temporary energy needs of those working in the construction sector.
The project involves supplying hybrid diesel power to a remote construction site that is used to house workers on a new resource project. This initiative is a world-first, as it is the only hybrid system in use that can be lifted out of place and delivered to other locations once it is no longer needed.
The one megawatt system is designed to fit within a standard shipping container, making it incredibly easy to move into a remote location.
By operating as a portable system, this diesel/solar system is able to avoid the high installation costs that come with a permanent solar installation. For remote communities that only require temporary electricity needs, this portable system might be a realistic solution to their ongoing energy needs.
Because the hybrid system can also be reused, it also has a degree of versatility, which can be useful for larger companies that regularly require remote energy generation.
Solar/diesel the way forward
As remote communities look for new solutions to their energy consumption needs, the possibilities of a diesel/solar hybrid system are only going to become more valuable. These systems can easily be applied to existing diesel infrastructure, offsetting a portion of their energy use and the subsequent cost of bringing in fuel.
For more on remote generation across either solar or diesel, make sure you contact the industry leaders at MPower. They can advise on the best way to implement an energy solution for even the most remote environment.