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ARENA puts $18.5m to solar, wind, storage in Coober Pedy

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is investing $18.5 million to help Energy Developments install a hybrid system solar, wind and storage that will take the outback town of Coober Pedy to 70 per cent renewables.

coober pedyThe South Australian town – famous as the former “opal capital” of the world – now relies exclusively on costly, imported diesel, and a 3.9MW diesel power station.

But the new project will look to integrate 2MW of solar PV, 3MW of wind, and a 2MW, 750kWh battery storage set up. This could account for 70 per cent of the town’s needs.

It is the second major off-grid project recently supported by ARENA, which is also investing in a 6.7MW solar plus storage installation at Rio Tinto’s Weipa refinery in far north Queensland.

The government has tried to close ARENA, and cut off new funding, but this is being resisted by the Opposition, the Greens and now the cross-bench in the Senate.

“This ambitious project may demonstrate a combined approach for powering off-grid Australian communities that currently rely solely on expensive trucked-in diesel,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said in a statement.

The project will include short-term energy storage, fast start diesel engines and an advanced control system to enable smooth operation, and will be similar to the renewable energy integration project conducted by Hydro Tasmania on King Island.

“These enabling technologies have been successfully tried and tested by Hydro Tasmania  …. And this represents an opportunity to see them evolve for use on the mainland and in an outback community that has few alternative energy options,” Frischknecht said.

“Further demonstration of these technologies is expected to reduce costs over time and improve opportunities for future deployment without subsidies.

“Australia’s energy demand is growing off the grid and this landmark project will show how high penetration renewable energy projects can deliver safe, reliable power to off- grid communities.”

Energy Developments has 676MW of capacity in Australia, and 368MW of “remote” energy in 33 sites across the country. The Coober Pedy installation will be its first with significant amounts of wind and solar, but it is a model it thinks it can replicate in many other sites.

CEO Greg Pritchard said the project would help position the company to be a leader in renewable hybrid systems in the remote off grid sector.

“We see this ARENA supported project as the precursor to other renewable hybrid projects that we are keen to implement throughout Australia to meet our customer’s growing interest in these energy solutions, and to significantly displace existing diesel generation,” he said.

ED off grid

The project is likely to be completed by 2017, depending on a final investment decision by Energy Developments.

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  • Beat Odermatt

    This makes a lot more sense then to give money to an company like Alinta to “do studies”.
    It may be worthy to note that solar pumps have replaced windmills in many properties of inland Australia.

    • mick

      I was surprised how saline the water that the submersible pump handles we used one on Andamooka island edge of lake torrens which anecdotally was said to be 30 times more salty than sea water

  • Tim Buckley

    Remove the diesel subsidy for mining companies in Australia and these hybrid solar-storage systems with a diesel generator backup would make even more commercial sense. What a great project to showcase the role of ARENA.