Alice Springs faces com­plex chal­lenges to increas­ing the amount of renew­able ener­gy in its pow­er sys­tem. The bar­ri­ers are main­ly tech­ni­cal, reg­u­la­to­ry, and eco­nom­ic. Solu­tions can be found in these areas, as well as through com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment. Tak­ing finan­cial lim­i­ta­tions into con­sid­er­a­tion, we want­ed to inves­ti­gate the best use of exist­ing infra­struc­ture, com­ple­ment­ed by new technologies. 

Alice Springs Future Grid car­ried out a series of inno­v­a­tive tri­als, mod­els and inves­ti­ga­tions look­ing across these dif­fer­ent areas and bring­ing togeth­er a broad range of part­ners. The sub-projects were inter­de­pen­dent and designed to holis­ti­cal­ly trans­form Alice Springs into a robust, dynam­ic, and renew­able future grid’. 

Alice Springs Roadmap to 2030

A key deliv­er­able of the project has been the Roadmap to 2030 report, which will help guide gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy and the imple­men­ta­tion of rec­om­mend­ed inter­ven­tions to reach the 2030 tar­get. The Roadmap was informed by the dif­fer­ent sub-projects and con­sid­ered four sce­nar­ios to reach the 50% renew­able ener­gy target. 

The five Alice Springs Future Grid sub-projects.

Tech­no-eco­nom­ic mod­el­ling led by Ekisti­ca (Sub-project 1

As the amount of renew­able ener­gy in the Alice Springs grid increas­es, inter­ven­tions are required to reduce ther­mal gen­er­a­tion (e.g. gas and diesel), while main­tain­ing the sta­bil­i­ty of the elec­tric­i­ty sys­tem. Mod­el­ling is cru­cial before sig­nif­i­cant changes are made to opti­mise out­comes and avoid sys­tem dis­rup­tions. This sub-project on sys­tem mod­el­ling, led by Ekisti­ca, inves­ti­gat­ed tech­ni­cal chal­lenges, as well as account­ing for finan­cial and con­sumer behav­iour – fac­tors rarely includ­ed in tech­ni­cal models. 

» Read the full Tech­no-Eco­nom­ic Mod­el­ling Report 

Sub-project 1 also includ­ed a behav­iour­al study, based on a whole of town com­mu­ni­ty sur­vey and a wind study. Both of these stud­ies informed the tech­no-eco­nom­ic mod­el­ling and Roadmap. 

Com­mer­cial micro­grid instal­la­tion at the Desert Knowl­edge Precinct (Sub-project 2)

Pri­vate­ly oper­at­ed renew­able ener­gy micro­grids may play an impor­tant role in future grid sys­tems. A key fea­ture of a micro­grid is the abil­i­ty to oper­ate inde­pen­dent­ly from the main grid and to poten­tial­ly island” for peri­ods of time. Grid-con­nect­ed micro­grids based on renew­able ener­gy are not com­mon in reg­u­lat­ed networks. 

This sub-project saw the first ever com­mer­cial micro­grid installed in Alice Springs at the Desert Knowl­edge Precinct. The team sought to iden­ti­fy the tech­ni­cal and reg­u­la­to­ry bar­ri­ers of the cur­rent sys­tem to the design, instal­la­tion, and oper­a­tional process of the micro­grid, and under­stand lia­bil­i­ties for sup­ply dur­ing peri­ods of dis­con­nec­tion from the network. 

» Read the full Reg­u­la­to­ry Frame­work for Com­mer­cial Micro­grids on Reg­u­lat­ed NT Networks

Com­mu­ni­ty Solu­tions (Sub-project 3)

The con­sis­tent enthu­si­asm of Alice Springs res­i­dents for rooftop solar is accel­er­at­ing the need to pro­vide extra sup­port to the elec­tric­i­ty net­work through the instal­la­tion of house­hold bat­ter­ies. As well as stor­ing ener­gy for lat­er use, bat­ter­ies can pro­vide oth­er ser­vices cru­cial to pow­er sys­tem oper­a­tion. When mul­ti­ple bat­ter­ies are linked through a Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant (VPP), such ser­vices can be bun­dled up and direct­ed by the sys­tem con­troller to suit sup­ply and demand. 

Com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment for Alice Springs Future Grid was deliv­ered under sub-project 3, led by the Arid Lands Envi­ron­ment Cen­tre (ALEC). Its pur­pose was to keep the com­mu­ni­ty informed about project activ­i­ties, fos­ter pos­i­tive rela­tion­ships and offer chances for par­tic­i­pa­tion and learn­ing. This includ­ed engage­ment for the Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant, includ­ing the recruit­ment of those who installed and con­fig­ured the VPP droplets at cus­tomer sites. 

» Read the lessons learnt report from com­mu­ni­ty engagement 

A pub­lic hous­ing tri­al was also car­ried out as part of this sub-project, with the instal­la­tion of 15 rooftop solar pan­els and bat­tery ener­gy stor­age sys­tems (BESS) at pub­lic hous­ing homes in Alice Springs. The major­i­ty saw a sig­nif­i­cant drop in ener­gy costs. 

» Read the lessons learnt report from the pub­lic hous­ing trial 

Tar­iff Reform (Sub-project 4

The Tar­iff Reform sub-project was led by Jacana Ener­gy and includ­ed the set up and deliv­ery of the Solar Con­nect VPP, the first of its kind in the North­ern Territory. 

While North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy deter­mines the tar­iffs that Jacana can pro­vide, the test­ing and devel­op­ment of new tar­iff rates remained important. 

Tar­iffs were a use­ful tool in chang­ing ener­gy usage pat­terns. The tar­iff reform sub-project explored options and vari­a­tions, for time-of-use elec­tric­i­ty tar­iffs and a month­ly VPP par­tic­i­pa­tion cred­it. Tar­iff tri­als helped the team learn how and why cus­tomers respond­ed to dif­fer­ent prices and incen­tives, and the effect of their altered behav­iour on the pow­er system. 

» Read the lessons learnt report from the Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant trial 

Future Grid Deploy­ments (Sub-project 5 )

This mul­ti-faceted sub-project cul­mi­nat­ed in the deliv­ery of the Roadmap towards 2030’ report for Alice Springs. This iden­ti­fies the opti­mal path­ways and time­lines for achiev­ing the North­ern Territory’s tar­get of 50% renew­able ener­gy by 2030, on the Alice Springs grid. Var­i­ous tech­ni­cal inves­ti­ga­tions were deliv­ered under this sub-project, led by the Pow­er and Water Corporation. 

Addi­tion­al activ­i­ties includ­ed enhanced fore­cast­ing of solar and load, a dynam­ic export tri­al for sites that are typ­i­cal­ly lim­it­ed in the amount of solar pow­er they can export, and the explo­ration of new dynam­ic oper­a­tional pro­ce­dures. The aim was to pro­vide more options for Sys­tem Con­trol to min­imise the amount of ther­mal gen­er­a­tion (i.e. gas and diesel) required. 

Part of Alice Springs Future Grid’s lega­cy will be the con­tin­ued col­lab­o­ra­tion between these part­ners, as well as an informed and engaged community. 

Alice Springs Future Grid was a con­sor­tium led project with part­ners includ­ing DKA, DKRI, Ekisti­ca, Ter­ri­to­ry Gen­er­a­tion and Pow­er Water Cor­po­ra­tion (Pow­er and Water). The Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy led deliv­ery of the project across five sub-projects, each led by a project part­ner, includ­ing the Arid Lands Envi­ron­ment Cen­tre (ALEC), Jacana Ener­gy, Pow­er and Water and Ekistica.

Part of Alice Springs Future Grid’s lega­cy will be the con­tin­ued col­lab­o­ra­tion between these part­ners, as well as an informed and engaged community.