NT airports to get three new solar farms and battery storage, courtesy of Canavan’s NAIF

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A NAIF loan of $150m will help add more than 50MW of solar PV and one battery storage system to airports in the Northern Territory.

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Three solar farms and a large-scale battery storage system will be built in the Northern Territory as part of $300 million expansion of airport facilities in the Territory, co-funded by the federal government’s $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund.

Minister for resources and northern Australia, Matt Canavan, said on Thursday that the NAIF would extend a $150 million loan to the project, focused on upgrading the airports of Darwin, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.

The project would include the construction of a 40MW solar farm at Darwin International Airport (DIA), a 10MW array at Alice Springs Airport and another, of an as-yet undisclosed size, at Tennant Creek.

An “off-site multi-user battery” will also be built, and sited 80km from Darwin, the details of which we are trying to dig up.

The loan will also fund development of a cold storage and an export hub at DIA – which will, presumably be powered by the big new solar and storage system – and various upgrades of the Alice Springs airport runway, taxiways and lighting.

The NAIF-backed solar farms will add to the 6MW of solar previously installed at DIA (pictured above) – and switched on just over two years ago; and to the 800kW of PV already installed at Alice Springs airport.

It will also help bring the NT up to speed with most of the rest of Australia’s major airports, which are meeting the majority of their electricity demand with either on-site solar, or – in the case of Sydney International Airport, just last month – substantial renewable energy power purchase agreements.

Airport Development Group CEO Ian Kew said the investment would be used to expand the solar power currently in operation at Darwin Airport.

“We have the largest solar power station in the Northern Territory at the moment,” he said.

“[But we would like] to build a 40MW power farm … to create sufficient power to export into the grid for everyone else to use,” he said.

Brisbane Airport last year kicked off work on a massive $11 million, six-stage solar upgrade, that will ultimately install a total of 6MW of PV panels across six sites.

And Adelaide Airport completed a 1.17MW addition its rooftop solar capacity in July 2016, bringing its total solar capacity to 1.28MW and supplying just under 10 per cent of the major airport’s energy needs.

For the NAIF, the announcement marks another loan targeting renewable energy, from a federal government facility many had feared would be used exclusively to shore up fossil fuel generation and infrastructure.

That concern was compounded when the fund’s first loan, in October last year, was issued to a WA shipping base that would service the oil and gas industry.

Since then, however, the balance has been redressed somewhat, with a $516 million loan towards Genex Power’s world-leading solar and pumped hydro storage project in north Queensland.

NAIF CEO Laurie Walker said the NT airports project would be the fund’s largest investment to date.

“We are very pleased to promote the significant public benefit that will be delivered for the Northern Territory through this project,” he said.

And in a statement on Thursday, Minister Canavan said the NT airports project would spark new job and economic opportunities across the Territory.

“These investments will increase the operational capacity of each airport and that will increase economic opportunities for each community,” he said.

“The projects will create jobs, drive new export opportunities into Asian markets, boost the NT’s tourism potential and support energy security for businesses and residents in the north.

“Up to 1,000 jobs are expected to be generated through the construction phase. In turn, those positions will support around 500 indirect jobs through the supply chain, and create more than 140 new ongoing positions.”

NT Treasurer Nicole Manison said the initiative would help the Territory reach its target of 50 per cent solar and renewable energy by 2030.

“As the price of delivering renewables goes down, that presents more opportunities for delivering renewable energy, but in a sustainable and secure way,” she said in comments here.

“One thing we’ve learnt from looking at the markets down south is that you have to do it in a sustainable and secure way.”

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here.

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