Can Kangaroo Island run off renewables?

Can Australia’s iconic Kangaroo Island be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy? This is the focus of a new study announced by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in partnership with the Kangaroo Island Council.

Supported by $60,000 of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Towards 100% Renewable Energy for Kangaroo Island research study will be managed by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at UTS.

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third biggest island (after Tasmania and Melville Island), and has one of the largest island populations with about 4500 residents and more than 200,000 visitors per year. The Island is currently powered by a 15km long, 33,000 volt undersea electricity cable from the mainland. As the cable is approaching the end of its expected life, South Australia Power Networks (SAPN) is investigating options to continue to provide reliable power to the island.

SAPN has identified that the preferred network option solution is to install a new $45 million cable connecting the island to the main electricity grid. As part of these investigations, SAPN has also issued an open two-month request for alternative non-network option proposals to replace the cable.

In response to this request, the ISF study will draw on the latest science to assess the viability of clean renewable energy technology being used to generate power for Kangaroo Island, instead of the proposed new grid-connected cable. In line with SAPN’s proposal deadline the study will be completed and released by mid July 2016.

ISF project director Chris Dunstan said powering a large community with reliable and affordable renewable energy is a challenging task, but the early indications of the study are encouraging.

“If we can show that renewable energy is technically and economically viable for Kangaroo Island, it would be a powerful precedent for communities around Australia who are seeking to develop their own renewable energy resources,” he said.

Acting ARENA CEO Ian Kay said the project represented a great opportunity to demonstrate the potential of renewables to generate clean, reliable and cost effective electricity for fringe-of-grid communities like Kangaroo Island.

Kangaroo Island Council CEO Andrew Boardman welcomed the new investigation.

“Kangaroo Island has great wind, solar and biomass resources and a strong commitment to environmentally sustainable economic development. Reliable, renewable energy should be the cornerstone of this development. It is crucial that we invest the time to investigate properly our clean energy options,” he said.