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New strategies showcase solar applications in Australia

10th Aug 2011

The Northern Territory is the site of a new hybrid system that aims to cut carbon emissions and encourage further development of solar technology on a large scale.

Watarrka National Park is a picturesque, remote location situated 450 km south-west of Alice Springs and is a popular tourist destination due to its uniquely rugged landscape, attracting more than 200,000 people per year.

It is now also the home of a $438,680 power station, installed over 16 weeks and utilising local employees.

The system combines a hybrid diesel and solar-powered battery system.

Parks and wildlife minister Karl Hampton says: "This new hybrid power system will reduce diesel dependency by 70 per cent and cut carbon emissions by 18 tonnes per annum through the use of new solar panels."

"The old ranger station was a heavy user of fossil fuel and that’s why we installed a new hybrid power system," he said.

The Watarrka ranger station is the second in the region to be converted and Hampton says if it is successful, it could provide a precedent for future conversions.

Hampton says: "We will be closely monitoring the success of the Watarrka ranger station with a view to rolling out this technology across other ranger stations to help this Government meet its climate change target of becoming carbon neutral by 2018."

Australia has also seen the installation of its very first 100 per cent eco-powered electronic billboard.

Ricoh Company is behind the project, one of only three in the world.

The billboard clearly displays the company's name however, unlike other billboards, it collects and stores electricity from the sun via a total of 96 solar panels.

If there is not enough sun in a given day, the billboard may not light up - something the company intends to use to highlight the underlying message.

Kazunori Azuma, corporate executive vice-president and general manager of the firm, says: "Rather than merely using this billboard to promote our company name, Ricoh sees it as a way of communicating our environmental and sustainability values to a wide public audience. Therefore the sign will not light up if there is insufficient power collected from the sunlight."

Australia remains a key player in the implementation of bold new solar power systems and this is expected to continue with the government committing to allocate billions of dollars of research and development for the solar industry.

By Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent

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