Regional areas of Australia to receive more renewables

7th Jun 2013

Regional renewables and solar power are about to soar in some of the more remote areas of Australia, thanks to a government project.

The new Regional Australia's Renewables (RAR) initiative, supported by the Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) of Australia, is going to facilitate 150 MW worth of electricity from renewable energy sources in regional and remote locations in Australia within the next five years.

The sunny region of Pilbara will be particularly important, where wind energy is often half the cost of diesel while at the same time energy demand is growing faster there than anywhere else in the nation.

This means the potential for wind energy is great – not to mention the scorching level of sun the region receives for solar power.

According to minister for resources and energy Gary Gray, at least two large-scale renewable energy plants of some kind will be built in such areas.

"It's no secret that in Western Australia we have a lot of remote areas and meeting our growing energy demand is a big issue," said Mr Gray.

"Where there is no grid-connected electricity, many communities and industries truck-in fuels to generate energy."

The RAR initiative is worth $400 and is designed to support remote communities and industries to turn to renewable energy strategies and solutions.

To support various industries, the RAR will help to develop hybrid solutions and integrated systems in off-grid and fringe-of-grid locations across the country, which will mean industry will have a more diverse combination of energy sources to work from.

In the community, the RAR will work with electricity distributors to demonstrate technology which can help to feed a greater amount of renewable energy into community electricity grids, such as new and innovative energy storage systems.

"In the Pilbara, two state-of-the-art solar-diesel power stations at Marble Bar and Nullagine have been built – in 2009-10 the average duration of power outages to Marble Bar households was 38 minutes. In 2010-11, when the new power station was operational, it was eight minutes," said Mr Gray, on the reliability of hybrid renewable systems.

As far as the new 150 MW of renewable electricity goes, Mr Gray noted that this could power approximately 30,000 homes – taking a huge burden off the traditional electricity network.

With the falling cost of solar and the increasing costs of upgrading network poles and wires, solar power and other renewable technologies are making more and more sense each day.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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