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This is a subject of much discussion and study, and is even the focus of a current Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding opportunity. It does pose a looming waste management issue, with the design life of solar panels at 20 to 30 years, and many installed well over a decade ago. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates there could be 60 to 78 million tons of photovoltaic panel waste accumulated globally by 2050. It also estimates the recyclable materials will be worth $15bn in recoverable value.
It is envisaged that recycling solar panels will create industry and employment opportunities, keep valuable resources out of landfill, help to retain rare elements, and prevent heavy metals leaching into the environment. There are a couple of companies working in this space in Australia.
All reputable installers will be registered with the Clean Energy Council. You can find out more in the Consumer section of its website.
You don’t need 3-phase power to charge an EV. In fact, you can purchase charging cables that plug into a standard domestic socket. The most common way to charge an EV is via a "type 2" charger, and many EV drivers will opt to have a charging point installed in their home. A 3-phase connection will charge your car more quickly. A single phase type 2 connection will be slower than 3-phase but faster than your standard household sockets. Your local solar installer or electrician can assist with questions specific to your case. The cost of the charge will depend on the general cost of electricity, the capacity of the vehicle’s batteries, and whether you’re incorporating solar power. A fuel cost savings calculator can be found on myelectriccar.com.au, with plentiful similar resources available elsewhere online.
There are enough chargers along the highway to comfortably travel the length of Australia. There are a surprising number of charging points all over Australia, including in some incredibly remote locations, such as Kiwirrkurra, which is one of the most remote settlements on the planet! It is easy to view the full range of charging points on the app PlugShare. At the time of writing there were no Superchargers identified along the Stuart Highway.
According to figures from Power and Water Corporation, Alice Springs had 2,018 grid-connected rooftop PV systems at the end of financial year 18/19. The total capacity of these systems was 10.2MW. This does not include the 4MW Uterne Solar Farm. Based on the last four years of data, rooftop PV is being installed at an average rate of approximately 200 systems per year, with a capacity of 1.3MW.
Many people in the Northern Territory rely upon off-grid power systems, especially in very remote settlements such as outstations and ranger stations. The Alice Springs grid provides interesting challenges because it is isolated, unlike the National Electricity Market which connects jurisdictions from Queensland to South Australia, including Tasmania. The more customers and generators that are connected to a grid, the fewer challenges are faced in maintaining grid stability. Therefore, removing yourself from the grid when you have the choice to be connected is not of any benefit to the community.
Residential batteries can be fitted to most households with existing PV systems. Replacing the entire system will depend on the age of the infrastructure – panels and inverter primarily. Further information should be sought from accredited CEC installers, or alternatively see websites such as Solarquotes to gain a better understanding of the various technicalities.
With solar PV and batteries it is technically possible to go off-grid, but Alice Springs residents would need a very big battery or backup diesel generator to cover occasions where there is limited sun for consecutive days. The most common option is to install PV and BESS in proportion to household needs, and let the grid come to the rescue when its needed. In the future, plentiful PV and BESS will create a very resilient system, because it’s highly unlikely that they could all fail at once. For most people it is not financially viable to go off-grid, but as centralised energy generation incorporates a growing proportion of renewables, it means everyone will eventually be provided with cleaner energy.
Quotes will depend on your particular specifications and should always be sought from a Clean Energy Council accredited installer.
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