This con­tent has been writ­ten by the Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy in col­lab­o­ra­tion with engi­neers and oth­er ener­gy indus­try experts with­in the Con­sor­tium Mem­ber organ­i­sa­tions of Alice Springs Future Grid, and on occa­sion, Project Asso­ciates. Please sub­mit your ques­tions, which will be answered in due course and shared on this plat­form if rel­e­vant and appro­pri­ate. You will be noti­fied via email when the answer is post­ed. Terms and con­di­tions are detailed on the sub­mit a ques­tion page. 

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What proportion of solar in Alice Springs is from houses, small businesses, Uterne, and big commercial installations?

The latest Utilities Commission Power System Review details generation capacity in Alice Springs. At the time of the report (2018) Ron Goodin Power Station was able to generate 42.6MW, Owen Springs Power Station could generate 77.1MW and Uterne Solar Farm 4MW. So proportionally solar made up just over three per cent of centralised power generation.

Of the more than 2000 rooftop PV installations in Alice Springs, about 94% are household systems, with the remaining 6% belonging to commercial organisations. Household systems contribute around 7.3MW to the energy system, while the commercial operations contribute 2.9MW.

What does the big BESS battery at Ron Goodin power station actually do?

The Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in Alice Springs is designed to provide grid stability services. This is much-needed, as the town has a high proportion of rooftop solar PV, which can create challenges in the grid during periods of high cloud coverage, requiring thermal generation to react as quickly as possible to pick up the slack. In these instances, the BESS can almost immediately support the grid while thermal generation ramps up or down. If it were to be used purely for storage, the battery would last about 40 minutes. Proportional to the size of the Alice Springs grid, it is the biggest battery in Australia. This perhaps illustrates why centralised battery storage alone isn’t a viable solution to support high renewable penetration in a town like Alice, just yet.

What is the current status of Ron Goodin power station?

Ron Goodin Power Station, located near the centre of Alice Springs, was commissioned in 1973. Some of its generators are the oldest of their type operating in the world. Territory Generation completed an expansion of its Owen Springs Power Station in February 2019, so is transitioning the main generation capability to this location, 26km south of Alice Springs and away from residential areas. Thermal power stations typically have a lifetime of 30-50 years.

Could Alice Springs reach 100% renewables by 2030?

Solar is currently the only viable renewable resource in Central Australia, so to reach 100% solar would require a very large (and prohibitively expensive) battery, to cover the overnight periods. If we can overcome grid stability challenges, it may well be possible to reach 100% solar during the day. Further investigations are required to determine if wind energy is able to diversify the Alice Springs energy portfolio. Factors that could assist - but are outside the scope of Alice Springs Future Grid - include the adoption of electric vehicles and their integration into the grid, and the development of a green hydrogen industry.

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