Australia’s King Island’s Transition To Off-Grid Renewables

Previously entirely dependent on expensive, dirty diesel for electricity generation, King Island’s supply is now predominantly wind and solar power backed by battery storage.

This segment is from SolarQuotes TV Episode 9, which showcases the best examples of off-grid living in Australia and the solar hardware making it possible. You can view the full Living Off-Grid With Solar episode here.

— Segment transcript begins (Finn Peacock, SolarQuotes Founder):

I want to start with a whole island that’s gone off grid. King Island, the Tasmanian island in Bass Strait with 1800 residents.

Many years ago, King Island was a big problem for Hydro Tasmania – they’re responsible for supplying electricity to the residents. The problem being that it was costing Hydro Tasmania more per kilowatt hour to generate the electricity from diesel than they were allowed to charge the residents.

So for the past 20 years, they’ve been installing renewable generation on top of the existing six megawatt diesel power station. Now they’ve got 470 kilowatts of utility scale solar, about 500 kilowatts of residential solar, and 2,700 kilowatts of wind power – and a 3MW/1.5 MWh battery.

To manage the variable nature of the wind and solar, they’ve also installed two 1-megawatt flywheels. These are massive steel disks that spin up to provide extra mechanical inertia, which helps stabilize power quality. One of the ways they work is if the frequency dips, they help bring it back up again.

They’ve also got three half-megawatt dynamic resistors. So if the frequency in the grid gets above the magic 50 Hertz, the resistance can jump in, soak up the generation and almost instantly bring the frequency down.

So, how’s it all going?

Well, the good news for us energy nerds is we can go online and see in real time all the energy flows. How good is that?

But before you jump online and geek out, here are the main outcomes of this massive project:

They’ve saved 13 million litres of expensive stinky diesel. On average, they’ve had 65% renewables throughout the year, often with a hundred percent renewable generation for up to 22 hours at a time That’s pretty cool – and all this at a cost to consumers of 19 cents a kilowatt hour.

So, how do they get closer to the magic hundred percent renewables? Well, they need more generation, bigger batteries and smart, modern inverters that can do much of the system stability through virtual inertia instead of mechanical. Let’s hope they get there.

— Transcript ends

More About Small-scale Solar Energy On King Island

More than 288 small-scale solar power systems have been installed across King Island to date, with a collective capacity of 2,010 kW as at the end of August this year. There are approximately 806 dwellings on the island, so that would work out to around 36 solar panel systems per 100 dwellings – but some of those systems would be on commercial premises and some may have been decommissioned as the total is a cumulative figure.

Interested in statistics for your suburb or town? Try our Solar In Your Location database – it contains all sorts of facts and figures.

If you’re in Tassie and considering installing solar panels, pick up some advice in Finn’s guide – Solar 101 – Tasmanian Edition.

For more solar videos, check out SolarQuotes’ Youtube channel!

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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