Remote communities in the Northern Territory can soon reduce reliance on polluting diesel power, as stage two of a joint government solar roll-out begins.

The $59 million Solar Energy Transformation Program (SETuP) will see 10 megawatts of solar power be delivered to 28 remote communities from the South Australian border to the Tiwi Islands.

The program is being delivered by the NT government and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). 

Tranche two, beginning now and expecting to be completed by November, will see 5.6MW of solar PV installed in 17 communities, to complement the 3.325MW already installed. At 15 sites, the solar will be integrated with diesel generators, including a 1MW system at the Tiwi Island community of Wurrumiyanga, which will be able to supply electricity to three communities on Bathurst and Melville Islands via an interconnector. 

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said the roll-out would bring the benefits of renewables to off-grid and offshore communities.

“As the largest roll out of solar PV to remote communities, this is a significant achievement that is four years in the making and one that ARENA is extremely proud to be supporting,” Mr Frischknecht said. 

“This project will reduce the reliance on diesel –which is costly and subject to price volatility – creates job opportunities in remote communities and provides renewable energy which can be expanded in the future.”

Fuel delivery to Gunbalunya

Mr Frischknecht said each community would also be technically able to plug in more solar and also storage as costs decline.

“Over time, this could lead to very high percentage renewable power, driven by the lower cost of renewable energy,” he said.

Daly River recently became the first remote community in the NT to be part powered by solar and batteries, with a two megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery with a 0.8MW peak output installed with 3.200 solar panels. The system is providing 50 per cent of all energy needs.

NT’s Power and Water Corporation is managing the program. 

It’s chief executive Michael Thomson said reducing diesel fuel use in remote locations made economic and environmental sense.

“As these hybrid systems combine existing Power and Water assets with clean technologies, we are able to ensure service remains consistent while making a 15 per cent saving on diesel fuel,” he said.