Solar farm first step towards sustainable power for Aboriginal community

Ergon Energy is undertaking a 1MW expansion of the award-winning Doomadgee Solar Farm, resulting in 1.26MWp of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced $4.6 million for the $11.9 million renewable energy project in August, which is set to deliver significant benefits for the remote Aboriginal community in north-western Queensland.

ARENA chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht said the ambitious project in the Gulf of Carpentaria will drastically reduce the Doomadgee community’s reliance on expensive diesel fuel and secure its future power production with renewable, reliable solar.

“Ergon Energy will achieve up to 100 per cent solar penetration, displacing an expected 528,000L of diesel per year,” he said.

“The solar PV/diesel hybrid system will include an advanced control system with stability control and be configured to allow the diesel generators to be turned off, maximising the penetration of renewable energy.”

This is the first project to be funded through ARENA’s Community and Regional Renewable Energy program, which is designed to help key regional energy distributors feed more renewable energy into off-grid communities.

“ARENA recognises the importance of working with suppliers to deliver renewable energy options for communities that are not connected to the National Electricity Market on the east coast, or the South West Interconnected System in Western Australia,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“This project will help advance Ergon Energy’s technical capability to roll out high penetration solar PV/diesel hybrid systems into other isolated communities.”

It also has the potential to catalyse further investment in renewable solutions across Ergon Energy’s significant network, which covers 97 per cent of Queensland and provides power to more than 700,000 customers.

“This project, and others like it, will help drive down cost, making high penetration renewable solutions cost competitive with diesel,” Mr Frischknecht said, acknowledging the knowledge gained will be shared with industry to help increase understanding of remote high penetration solar-diesel hybrid off-grid systems.

Ergon Energy has started work on the project, which is due to be completed by September 2017.

Doomadgee is an Aboriginal community with a population of 1052 people, located in the Gulf of Carpentaria in north-western Queensland.

Doomadgee’s 2.44MW diesel power station is the fourth largest of Ergon’s isolated power stations and has the highest amount of fuel storage, almost one million litres.

The solar farm with its 1056 panels was designed and constructed to take advantage of the existing diesel power system capability and deliver an economical solution. The development allows for 50 per cent instantaneous power penetration, which pushes the technical limits of the system spinning reserve and diesel engine load acceptance.

Ergon Energy recognised for design and development innovation

Ergon Energy was awarded the 2014 Clean Energy Council (CEC) Industry Award for Innovation for the solar farm project in July.

The CEC awards identify industry excellence with the award for innovation recognising the design and development of a ground-breaking Australian clean energy project.

The award was presented to general manager energy solutions and isolated systems Kevin Colley, who said the award demonstrates to customers and stakeholders Ergon Energy is serious in working towards creating a sustainable future for the communities it services.

The project team submitted a nomination that showcased the 264kW Doomadgee Solar Farm project, highlighting the ground-breaking work undertaken by engineers and project managers and demonstrated the business commitment to customer and stakeholder engagement within the isolated communities.

Ergon engineers broke new ground on the project by challenging preconceived restrictions on the amount of solar that could be connected to a diesel grid with the additional costly stability devices.