First NT community powered by sun
Renewable energy has come to the Northern Territory bush, with solar power and battery storage set to provide an entire Aboriginal community's daytime electricity needs for the first time.
Around 500 residents from Daly River, more than 200km south of Darwin, will receive power entirely from the sun during the day when the solar and battery storage project is completed in September.
The $55 million program, which is jointly funded by the Territory and federal governments, will eventually deliver 10 megawatts of solar energy across 28 remote communities.
It will reduce their reliance on diesel fuel by approximately 15 per cent, reaping savings of up to 94 million litres of fuel over the lifetime of the project.
So far, more than 10,500 solar panels have been installed, providing 5000 kilowatts per hour each day to more than 570 homes across 10 Aboriginal communities.
The site at Daly River is the first to incorporate a lithium-ion battery, charged by 3200 solar panels, meaning diesel generators will only operate at night.
That'll save 400,000 litres of fuel every year, meaning half as many fuel trucks wearing away the regional roads, Essential Services Minister Gerry McCarthy says.
Mr McCarthy said the Nauiyu Aboriginal community was chosen to test the new technology but he hopes to roll it out in other remote communities.
"Nauiyu will be certainly learning lessons for the rest of the nation," he said.
Mr McCarthy said the Daly River project investment will be approximately $6.2 million, which will create local jobs and greater power reliability.
"As battery costs rapidly reduce over the next few years, we expect solar and battery technology to become more economically viable," he said.
Traditional owners have given permission for construction, which indigenous engagement officer Mark Cassey says is an example of Aboriginal communities embracing innovation to continue to care for their land.
He'll approach schools about student site visits to achieve generational change.
"Their future is here, so they've got to grow up with it," he said.
Mr McCarthy says there'll be no changes to power bills for consumers, as any savings will be reinvested back into costly remote delivery of electricity which is already subsidised.
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