Hydro Tasmania to fuel desert oasis

Coober Pedy, SA
Coober Pedy, SA

Tasmanian renewable innovation is set to fuel one of Australia’s most isolated communities.

Hydro Tasmania has been engaged by project developer Energy Developments Limited (EDL) to help transform Coober Pedy in remote South Australia into a mostly renewable energy township.

Once the technology is in place, the mining town of about 3500 people will draw on average 70 per cent of its energy from solar and wind. When conditions allow, the town will be 100 per cent renewably powered.

The project has been made possible by grant funding to EDL of up to $18.4 million by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The Coober Pedy project will use the technologies developed and proven by Hydro Tasmania in its successful ARENA-supported King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP), which has reduced the Bass Strait island’s annual diesel consumption by 60 per cent on average.

Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy said the Coober Pedy project demonstrates the success of KIREIP, and growing commercial interest in this technology within Australia and overseas.

“We’re going to see world-leading Tasmanian innovation and technology used to transform a remote town in the Australian desert into a renewable energy oasis,” Mr Davy said.

“Only Hydro Tasmania has demonstrated that unique ability at megawatt scale, and Australia and the world are increasingly taking notice.

“As well as our own expertise and technology, we’re using local manufacturing suppliers to fulfil this contract, which will inject several million dollars into the Tasmanian economy.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Hydro Tasmania had joined a growing list of companies that have commercialised early-stage renewable energy technologies with ARENA support.

“The Coober Pedy project is a prime example of Australia’s world-leading expertise in devising renewable micro-grid solutions with strong commercial potential,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“This is a next-generation off-grid project that’s taking advantage of advanced renewable and enabling technologies being deployed and trialled by Hydro Tasmania across three different projects with $16.3 million total ARENA funding support.

“Combining wind, solar, battery storage and smart control systems could provide a blueprint for off-grid communities to access cleaner and cheaper power and achieve energy independence by greatly reducing their reliance on trucked-in diesel.”

EDL supplies power to Coober Pedy via a 3.9MW diesel power station. Under the contract, Hydro will supply EDL with its proprietary enabling technology, comprised of control, load management and storage systems. This solution will significantly increase the contribution of renewable energy at the township and allow it to operate solely on renewable generation when conditions allow.

The project offers significant benefits as diesel generation is intrinsically expensive and emissions intensive.

It is Hydro Tasmania’s biggest external supply contract to date.

“We’ll be producing, testing and delivering our cutting-edge technology to Coober Pedy, to assist EDL to manage, regulate and smooth-out the town’s new renewable energy supply,” Hydro Tasmania manager off-grid solutions Simon Gamble said.

“The enabling technology successfully pioneered on King Island will be deployed to Coober Pedy in our new scalable ‘containerised’ format. Each unit is a purpose-built shipping style container utilised for easier transport and installation and designed for long-term on-site operation, providing a very flexible and efficient logistical solution.”

The units will be fabricated locally on Tasmania’s north-west coast, and most of the technological equipment is also locally produced.

“The combination of our hybrid energy solution and the state’s skilled fabrication industry positions Tasmania well to supply these hybrid systems to a growing market throughout our region,” Mr Gamble said.

Hydro Tasmania expects to deliver its technology in mid-2017.