Alice Solar City has closed its doors for the last time after five years but the journey has only just begun, says the NGO’s general manager, Sam Latz: “What’s next is up to the collective vision of the community.”
He estimates the initiative has pumped $100m into the town and saved 7,400 tonnes of greenhouse gas each year, but Alice slipped from 10 times to twice the national average in solar use with Australia’s “incredible growth” of sun power.
Mayor Damien Ryan says that the town council was the project’s lead agent and invested $1m since the Solar City bid in 2005: “There is a great opportunity now to harness this enthusiasm and momentum to grow our use of solar and smart energy technologies.”
Mr Latz says the achievements of the Alice Solar City trial include:-
• 2,767 free home energy surveys.
• 228 businesses registered.
• $8.17 million worth of funding for residential and commercial solar and energy efficiency.
• Homeowners and businesses have spent $9.89 million on energy efficiency and solar power measures.
• 317 solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on homes and businesses with Alice Solar City’s help. Just over 700 solar PV systems have been installed in total, from just two installations in town when the project began.
• $12.8 million invested in five nationally significant, large scale iconic solar projects.
• Alice Springs now has more than 4 Megawatts (MW) of PV solar, enough to power 860 average Alice Springs homes.
• 908 residential solar hot water systems installed with funding support.
• 608 smart meters installed in homes.
• Solar PV installations include 1.31 MW in the residential sector, 1.62 MW in the commercial sector and 0.97 MW in the utility sector. Solar is now meeting up to 10% of the town’s daytime power requirements – one of the highest levels in Australia per capita.
• An estimated 7,400 tonnes of greenhouse gas savings are being made each year from the installations supported by Alice Solar City – equivalent to the emissions generated from electricity consumption by 1270 typical Alice Springs homes.
• Investment in solar technologies, energy efficient buildings and appliances are easing the pressure on maximum demand on the Alice Springs power system.
• Significant learnings for Power and Water around “time of use” electricity tariffs – the first program of its kind in the Northern Territory.
• Implementation of a highly successful operations and community engagement model which has helped to inform other similar programs in the Northern Territory.
• Solar and energy efficiency improvements to homes are now recognised by the Alice Springs real estate market as desirable features for home buyers that provide a sales advantage.
• Increased labour productivity of energy efficiency suppliers and installers has led to a higher degree of skills specialisation; a valuable asset in a town with skilled labour shortages.
• A positive contribution to the community spirit of the town with over 30% of the population participating.
PHOTO: At the opening of the Uterne solar power station in July 2011: Mr Latz (at right). Mayor Ryan and the third from left.