Ayers Rock Resort powers innovation through solar leadership

Desert Gardens solar panels installation with township at Voyages Yulara

A newly-completed solar project near Uluru is proving on-site renewable energy is cleaner and cheaper than alternative sources of energy for many remote businesses and consumers.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have congratulated Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia (Voyages) and Australian renewable energy company Epuron for the 1.8MW solar photovoltaic system at the Ayers Rock Resort.

The CEFC last year loaned $4.7 million to Epuron to construct, own and maintain the $7 million 5770-module solar array at the Resort. The installation is expected to generate enough power to cover up to 30 per cent of the Resort’s daytime use, or about 15 per cent of its annual overall energy use.

CEFC CEO Oliver Yates said solar energy is playing a major role in transforming Australia’s energy future while reducing costs and providing greater regional energy security.

“This project displaced expensive and inefficient power generated using trucked-in fuel with clean on-site power from the sun. It was economic in its own right and better for the environment,” Mr Yates said.

“We’re pleased that CEFC finance has helped encourage additional private sector investment in renewable energy and is helping to build technical experience in this sector.”

ARENA is providing $450,000 funding support to Voyages to analyse and promote the learning and expertise gained throughout development and construction.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project was exciting and significant because it demonstrated that solar PV was economically viable in remote Australian locations.

“Voyages was able to build the solar installation with limited government support, using an operational lease model never before delivered at this scale. As a result, it will benefit from significant savings in the Resort’s power expenses over the next 20 years,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The knowledge generated and shared through this project will help other remote and off-grid power users to build on Voyages’ work and determine whether switching to renewable energy makes sense for them.”

Epuron Executive Director Martin Poole said: “This project builds on our track record with solar generation projects in remote areas. Epuron is pleased to work with Voyages and we acknowledge the contribution of our main contractor Complete Power Solutions”.

The development was conceived by Voyages in partnership with CAT Projects, an award winning engineering consultancy based in Alice Springs. Voyages and CAT Projects completed detailed feasibility and design, as well as the innovative contractual framework, and awarded the contract to Epuron after a successful tender process in 2014.

Named Tjintu, which means ‘sun’ in the local Pitjantjatjara language, the solar PV array is distributed across five separate locations around the Ayers Rock Resort.

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