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Solar power helps King Island reach 100% sustainability

29th Jul 2013

A major milestone has been reached in a project that aims to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels on King Island, Tasmania.

The King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP) has reached sustained periods of zero diesel fuel use, relying entirely on solar power and wind.

Run by Hydro Tasmania, the scheme will act as a demonstration model and rolled out to other remote or off-grid areas if successful.

Simon Gamble, project director, said the overall goal for KIREIP is to lower diesel consumption by over 65 per cent.

"Achieving 100 per cent renewable energy penetration in large off-grid systems has remained elusive until now, and is very difficult to achieve given the need to maintain reliability and security of power supply under highly variable wind and solar conditions," he stated.

Despite this, the initiative has now reached a point where it can supply energy using 100 per cent renewable sources.

These include long periods at night when demand is lowest, and parts of the day when solar power resources are most abundant or winds are high.

"Although there are remote area power systems in some parts of the world that are capable of supplying the energy needs of single homes or small villages, this is the first remote system on this scale capable of supplying the power needs of an entire community," Gamble stated.

Hydro Tasmania uses advanced control systems and resistor technology that automatically switch between diesel and renewable energy depending on current wind and solar levels.

Not only is the system completely unmanned, the company said, it creates significant savings by automating the process.

Gamble stated that now it has been proven that 100 per cent renewable generation is possible, Hydro Tasmania will look to extend the periods it remains in this state.

The organisation is hoping to enhance performance through customer load control and energy storage technology.

"This will help maintain a stable power system in the absence of diesel generation even during the inevitable lulls in wind or solar conditions," Gamble said.

KIREIP is an important project for proving how successful renewable energy can be for displacing fossil fuel reliance in remote and off-grid locations, he added.

According to the project leader, diesel is often one of the largest expenses in these areas, so switching to cheaper and more abundant resources makes excellent economic sense.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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