The remote underground town of Coober Pedy in South Australia will be transformed into a mostly renewable community thanks to Hydro Tasmania.

Hydro Tasmania has been engaged by project developer Energy Developments Limited (EDL) to install technology that will help the mining town draw – on average – 70 per cent of its energy from solar and wind.

When conditions allow, the town will be 100 per cent renewably powered.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has provided EDL with grant funding of up to $18.4 million to complete the project.  

The Coober Pedy project will use the technologies developed and proven by Hydro Tasmania in its successful ARENA-supported King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP), which has reduced the Bass Strait island’s annual diesel consumption by 60 per cent on average.

Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy said the Coober Pedy project demonstrates the huge success of KIREIP, and growing commercial interest in this technology within Australia and overseas.

“We’re going to see world-leading Tasmanian innovation and technology used to transform a remote town in the Australian desert into a renewable energy oasis,” Mr Davy said.

“Only Hydro Tasmania has demonstrated that unique ability at megawatt scale, and Australia and the world are increasingly taking notice.

“As well as our own expertise and technology, we’re using local manufacturing suppliers to fulfil this contract, which will inject several million dollars into the Tasmanian economy.

“With our off-grid successes on King Island and developments underway at ARENA supported projects on Flinders and Rottnest Islands, plus Coober Pedy to come, Tasmania’s future as a provider of these energy solutions to the global market is extremely bright,” Mr Davy said.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Hydro Tasmania had joined a growing list of companies that have commercialised early-stage renewable energy technologies with ARENA support.

“The Coober Pedy project is a prime example of Australia’s world-leading expertise in devising renewable micro-grid solutions with strong commercial potential,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“This is a next-generation off-grid project that’s taking advantage of advanced renewable and enabling technologies being deployed and trialled by Hydro Tasmania across three different projects with $16.3 million total ARENA funding support.

“Combining wind, solar, battery storage and smart control systems could provide a blueprint for off-grid communities to access cleaner and cheaper power and achieve energy independence by greatly reducing their reliance on trucked-in diesel.”

EDL supplies power to Coober Pedy via a 3.9 megawatt diesel power station.

Under the contract, Hydro will supply EDL with its proprietary enabling technology, comprised of control, load management and storage systems.

This solution will significantly increase the contribution of renewable energy at the township and allow it to operate solely on renewable generation when conditions allow.

The project offers significant benefits as diesel generation is intrinsically expensive and emissions intensive.

Hydro Tasmania’s Manager Off-Grid Solutions Simon Gamble said it is the company’s biggest external supply contract to date.

“We’ll be producing, testing and delivering our cutting-edge technology to Coober Pedy, to assist EDL to manage, regulate and smooth-out the town’s new renewable energy supply,” Mr Gamble said.

“The enabling technology successfully pioneered on King Island will be deployed to Coober Pedy in our new scalable “containerised” format.

“Each unit is a purpose-built shipping style container utilised for easier transport and installation and designed for long-term on-site operation, providing a very flexible and efficient logistical solution.

“The units will be fabricated locally on Tasmania’s north-west coast, and most of our technological equipment is also locally produced.

“We’re pleased to be supporting Tasmanian jobs, as well as promoting Hydro Tasmania’s own unique expertise and innovation.

“The combination of our hybrid energy solution and the state’s skilled fabrication industry positions Tasmania well to supply these hybrid systems to a growing market throughout our region,” Mr Gamble said.

Hydro Tasmania expects to deliver its technology in mid-2017.

Jessica Dickers is an experienced journalist, editor and content creator who is currently the Editor of Utility’s sister publication, Infrastructure. With a strong writing background, Jessica has experience in journalism, editing, print production, content marketing, event program creation, PR and editorial management. Her favourite part of her role as editor is collaborating with the sector to put together the best industry-leading content for the audience.

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