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Energy & Utilities | Mining & Resources

SETuP: Transforming electricity generation for remote communities in the NT

2 Mar 2015, by Informa Insights

The Power and Water Corporation is responsible for electricity transmission and distribution and provides water and sewerage services across the Northern Territory, an area of more than 1.3 million square kilometres. They are currently developing the Northern Territory Solar Energy Transformation Program (SETuP) and in the lead up to the Remote Area Power Supply Conference we caught up with the project director Andrew Gray as he gave us some more insight into the program.

Power & Water Corporation developing SETuP
Power & Water Corporation developing SETuP

Can you tell us a bit more about this project to introduce solar energy technologies across NT remote communities? What is the background of the project and which partners have contributed to build this project?
The Solar Energy Transformation Program (SETuP) will transform the way electricity is generated in remote communities with hybrid solar/diesel power generation becoming an integral part of electricity supply.

The rollout is targeted for over thirty communities over a three year period with construction expected to commence this year. Approximately thirty of the communities will be medium penetration sites which will achieve approximately 60 per cent peak solar penetration which is about 15 per cent average penetration. The Daly River site will be a 1000kW high penetration site achieving approximately 100 per cent peak solar penetration which is about 50 per cent average penetration.

Diesel costs are a significant portion of Power and Water Corporation’s Indigenous Essential Services’ operational budget. SETuP will achieve approximately 15 per cent saving in diesel on the medium penetration sites and approximately 50 per cent diesel savings at the Nauiyu (Daly River) high penetration site.

Project partners include the University of New South Wales, Charles Darwin University and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Part of the requirements of the project is knowledge sharing and reporting components and we will work with the universities to achieve this.

What are the next stages to advance the project further?
A significant effort is currently being put into acquiring suitable land leases for the solar plants. It is a multi-stage process; firstly Power and Water conducts an internal review of potential sites to ensure if possible that the sites will be located adjacent to the existing diesel power stations. However, this is not always possible due to township constraints. The next option is to locate the sites adjacent to existing high voltage feeders typically suppling bore fields. Power and Water consults extensively with government stakeholders such as Strategic Lands Planning and the Biodiversity unit. Power and Water also uses the services of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority to ensure areas of cultural significance are not damaged. Through its community engagement focus, Power and Water is consulting with the relevant land councils and traditional owners to ensure the proposed sites are suitable for the communities.

Solar PV installation in the Northern Territory. Photo courtesy of ARENA
Solar PV installation in the Northern Territory. Photo courtesy of ARENA

Which technologies will the project use?
As the solar plants will be installed at remote sites and subject to harsh environmental conditions the systems to be used will be tried and tested technologies: we envisage the systems will utilise fixed solar panels arrays. The inverters will be clustered into large banks of inverters so they are able to be controlled as one contiguous system.

The Nauiyu (Daly River) site will be used to test more advanced technologies. This site may utilise tracking arrays to increase the solar penetration and trial storage technologies such as lithium-ion batteries. It will also trial demand management to switch off non-essential loads such as air conditioners, when community demand is high. Cloud forecasting technology will allow smaller diesel sets to operate without compromising the spinning reserve to ensure the reliability of supply. If these technologies are proven to be effective, they may be rolled out to the medium penetration sites.

What are your main achievements to date?
It is still early days in the project, however we have received very encouraging feedback from several communities stating they want to be involved in SETuP, and are very keen to be part of a project that will produce power from the sun falling on the land.

Hear Andrew speak at the 2nd annual Remote Area Power Supply conference in Melbourne this month.

Learn more at the 2nd annual Remote Area Power Supply Conference to be held in Melbourne next month
Learn more at the 2nd annual Remote Area Power Supply Conference to be held in Melbourne

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