Daly River in the Northern Territory will become the first remote community in the state to be powered by solar and battery as part of the $55 million Solar Energy Transformation Program (SETuP).

Jointly funded by The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Northern Territory Government and managed by Power and Water, the 2MWh lithium-ion battery will be charged by 3,200 solar panels with 1MW peak output.

The Daly River site differs from other solar sites by incorporating a battery system which enables diesel engines to be turned off during the day, saving 400,000 litres of fuel per year, providing half of the town;s energy needs, and enabling a cleaner and quieter system.

The outcomes of the Daly River site are expected to guide deployment of more renewable energy in other remote communities as these technologies become cost effective and deliver further diesel and maintenance savings.

ARENA Chief Executive Officer, Ivor Frischknecht, said the Daly River site trial was important in showing how renewable energy can be a great way to reduce the reliance on diesel.

“As battery costs reduce over the next few years, solar and battery technology will become more and more economically compelling as an alternative to traditional ways of powering remote communities,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“We’re excited to see the outcomes of the Daly River installation which will help guide deployment of more renewable energy in other remote communities as the technology becomes more cost effective.”

Power and Water’s Chief Executive, Michael Thomson, actively supports the program’s environmental outcomes and use of dependable technology in remote locations.

“Our local engagement throughout the project has significantly helped shape the project and brings it into fruition.

“Through this, the locals understand how the battery and solar panels benefit the environment, reducing emissions, diesel and noise pollution. Ensuring the community has a sense of ‘ownership’ is a key area of focus and crucial for the project’s success,” Mr Thomson said.

Community engagement in Daly River has included participation from the local Malak Malak Aboriginal Rangers and the training and employment of Ironbark Aboriginal Corporation participants with Totem Fencing. Locally owned Aboriginal business Piening Contracting was awarded the tender for clearing, grubbing and minor civil works.

“The Ironbark Aboriginal participants from Nauiyu community were proactively involved in the fencing installation process, from filling the concrete mixer to installing the fence posts. Kenny Page and James Parry were engaged in learning constructive skills on the solar and battery site to benefit their work experience.

“The two trainees have gained further opportunities with Totem Fencing for other remote community sites,” Richard Peter, Director at Totem Fencing said.

Conergy and BMD Constructions were contracted to design and construct the Daly River solar array, while German company Qinous provided the battery system.

The $55 million Solar Energy Transformation Program (SETuP) launched in 2014 and has commissioned solar facilities in its first ten remote communities. The rollout will continue through 2018 with ongoing testing and system performance analysis taking place into 2020.

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