Construction to begin on Alice Springs solar station

Article image - Construction to begin on Alice Springs solar station Photo courtesy Solar Systems.

As a town that enjoys one of the highest levels of sunlight in the world, Alice Springs is keen to take advantage of the solar opportunities available to it. Accordingly, Alice Springs Town Council has taken a lead role in coordinating the Alice Solar City Project, which is part of the Federal Government’s $94 million Solar Cities Program.

Alice Solar City General Manager, Brian Elmer, said seven cities from across the country are participating in the program, but Alice Springs Town Council is the only Local Government taking a lead role.

“Council not only employs the Alice Solar City Project team, but also provides funding and in kind support for finance and other human resources for the project,” he said.

The Solar Cities Program is about helping families and businesses take action on climate change, and seeing what works best so that it can be rolled out to the rest of the nation.

Four projects have been planned under the Alice Springs project.

The first of the ‘iconic’ installations, a 305 kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system, has already been completed. With 1,300 solar panels, the rooftop solar installation is the largest building mounted PV system in the southern hemisphere.

Next on the agenda is a $3.3 million 26 dish solar power station. Melbourne based company, Solar Systems, will commence construction of the Alice Springs Ilparpa Solar Power Station mid this year. It will be one of the largest solar power stations in Australia, expected to produce around 1,800 megawatt hours per year. This will mean a 1,300 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Each of the station’s 35 kilowatt solar concentrator dishes will be 14 metres high and will have over 130 square metres of mirror reflector area. The dishes will turn slowly as they track the sun throughout the day, while the curved mirror surface will concentrate sunlight by 500 times onto a high efficiency photovoltaic receiver to generate power on the electricity grid.

The Territory’s sole energy, water and sewerage service provider, Power and Water Corporation, will purchase all the electricity generated by the project, and in turn, local residents can opt to purchase green electricity.

Brian Elmer said the station is expected to start feeding power into the grid by early 2010.

Brian Elmer said more than half of Alice Springs households are already harnessing the sun’s energy with solar hot water.

He said the Alice Solar City project uses a community based social marketing approach to engage with householders and businesses within the town.

“The program involves a range of innovative approaches to encourage changes in energy use behaviour, including free energy advice and surveys, financial incentives, new electricity tariffs, smart electricity metering, interactive inhouse energy displays, and an elevated buyback tariff for homeowners who choose to install photovoltaic systems,” Brian Elmer said. “Rewards are also available for program participants who make a set percentage reduction in their electricity consumption.

“There has been a very positive response from the local community, with over 600 households joining the program (the five year target was for 1,500 homes) since the project was launched in March 2008.”

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