New lobby demands more solar, less gas


p2311-power-station-engineLETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The RePower Alice Springs community campaign has been launched as a direct response to the recent NT Government announcement to invest $75 million into 10 new gas-fired turbines at Owen Springs Power Station, with no community consultation.
Whilst investment in reliable energy supply is welcomed, investment in fossil fuels is not and as the world starts to rapidly transition to renewable energy, the NT Government is taking a backward step by continuing to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure.
RePower Alice Springs represents a growing number of community members who want a solar future for the town. We are asking the NT Government to:–
• Immediately modify the contract with Clarke Energy to reduce the number of new gas turbines installed at Owen Springs, and redirect the available funding to up-scaling local solar power generation.
• Commit to a 10 year plan to transition Alice Springs to renewable energy.
• Create a Territory-wide Renewable Energy and Climate Change policy informed by climate science and community engagement with a focus on attracting investment for low-carbon energy infrastructure.
Alice Springs citizens have long shared a vision of Alice as a Solar City. With over 300 sunny days every year, Alice Springs has some of the highest solar potential in the world. We have a great legacy and expertise from the Alice Solar City project, so let’s capitalise on this, not lock ourselves into another 20 years of fossil fuel energy.
This decision represents a disconnect between the community, our elected representatives and Territory Generation. As the community continues to invest in rooftop solar and demand sustainable solutions, our NT government is fixated on gas, and is wasting public money on large-scale infrastructure that is destined to become a stranded asset in a low-carbon future.
We’ve just had the hottest February on record and now we are being told that the Great Barrier Reef is undergoing a mass bleaching event due to climate change.
Climate change is real, it’s happening right now and we need strong leadership from our government, not a business as usual approach.
RePower Alice Springs will be mounting a national campaign to have this decision reversed, and for the NT Government to engage in a plan to transition Alice Springs to solar energy.
Louise Stanley and Glenn Marshall
Alice Springs


  1. Well said, Louise and Glen. If the NT Government has $75m to spare for 10 new gas-fired turbines (lots of gas!), why not invest in five new turbines (say $40 millions into the old style infrastructure to secure continuity) and the rest in solar panels connected to the grid, as a transitional measure into a future which has to be (and will be) gas-free and carbon neutral.
    Please note that I have not studied brain surgery for this reasoning.

  2. Yeh, I am quite certain that the NT Government would like nothing better than to be able to switch totally to solar.
    Unfortunately present technology doesn’t make it possible to do so without giving up the reliability of your power supply.
    Are these the very same people who were complaining endlessly when Alice lost it power for a few hours a few months back, I wonder?
    The facts are, that if we shift to a much higher mix of solar than we have now we would start to see frequent blackout events.
    I personally am a strong supporter of solar power. I would love nothing more than to be able to produce all our power by solar, but dreaming about it, wishing for it doesn’t make it possible. Technology does.
    And so far, like it or not, the technology doesn’t allow it to be done on a large scale. It is of course quite possible to create a standalone system for your own home. If people are passionate about solar that’s where they should concentrate their energies, lobbying governments for greater input into home systems.
    But on the macro level we still require some form of generation to act as the battery. There is no national grid to hook into so we must provide our own generation to cover the times when solar isn’t producing, such as nights, cloudy days and possibly cloudy weeks.
    Who’s volunteering to go without power for a week or too at a time? What you also may not realize is there has to be enough generation running all the time to cover such events as a cloud moving across the sky which may cover a large solar power producer for just a few minutes. In that time its power production can drop as much as 30%.
    This acts like a huge load coming on and off the system. The system has to be able to react to this within a few seconds, supplying extra generation, or the system will start shedding load.
    Are you prepared to have your power cut with monotonous regularity on partially cloudy days? Do you think we can responsibly allow our schools, hospitals, shops and businesses to suffer constant power losses, possibly running for days at a time?
    The facts are that we already have a fantastic generation system that enthusiastically makes use of every bit as much solar as it can.
    All new growth in power generation is taken care of by solar! The $75m you are so concerned about is to replace existing aging generation capacity.
    It is our “battery” – just as you occasionally have to replace the batteries on a standalone household solar system. It is being replaced with multiple smaller units making a more flexible hence more efficient system.
    At this time in technological development this is a very clean system! A system so much in advance of the smoky old coal burners in use on the East Coast that you should be taking pride in it, lauding it to the rest of the country, not looking down your nose at it.
    In the $75m not only is aging generation being replaced, there will be a couple of synchronous motors which will help generation to handle the shocks created by cloud passage.
    This means less requirement for idle operating generation capacity, meaning less fuel.
    The generators are being relocated to a more community friendly location, ridding our town of substantial noise and smelly fume pollution.
    It also allows the cleaning up of the old site which in turn will eventually free up road access through that valley, providing new real estate opportunities and reliable flood access.
    All in all this project is an amazing win for the community of Alice Springs!
    More consultation? Really? We’ve been talking about this for 40 years that I know of.
    In my opinion it’s about time and quite frankly, without having our local member Adam Giles as Chief Minister, it would have taken another 20 years to achieve it.
    The $75m project is a bloody fantastic win for the Alice.

  3. @ Steve Brown: Never read so much BS in all my life. I cannot see why the consumers have not been involved in the say of what they want, as it is the consumer who will need to pay for this.
    Also, has there been an environmental study done in the area, as to what effect it will have on the nearby prison and Pine Gap?
    If we went solar, we would save millions of tonnes of carbon. We would improve Alice Springs health and ensure an energy security and stable electricity prices. Gas can do none of these.

  4. Couldn’t have said it better myself Louise and Glen!
    Well, I tried in yesterday’s Advocate, completely independently of your letter.
    Of course we can bat the pros and cons back and forward forever; everyone will have something valid to chip in.
    Our real obstacle is the absence of a coherent and effective inclusive planning process in and for the Centre, to back the vision.
    We need this to draw synergy from the mass of very clever people in the Alice, such as all of the above, to hatch a cohesive consensus plan of action towards the Alice becoming a world standard model of excellence in the responsible and clever use of energy.
    That includes state of the art solar harvesting and water management, serious recycling, electric car and bike mecca, responsible building design and re-purposing etc etc.
    We also need local, NT and Federal governments to share the vision. Everyone benefits if we get it right. Can RePower AS help?

  5. Steve, you are preaching sense. But all you will get for your troubles is abuse. Sorry. 🙁

  6. Food is energy … we buy energy from different shops; so why not have a solar farm there (solar power is cheaper than gas), we get energy but when the sun goes down, revert to gas?
    A solar farm can easily be built there; all we need is the political will.

  7. There needs to be a full enquiry into this, as to why the town’s people were not fully involved in the decision making.
    This is going to be a huge cost for the town and the NT. Who is going to foot the bill?

  8. Great work, Louise Stanley and Glenn Marshall.
    Alice Springs and Central Australia have enough of the raw energy required to become The Solar Centre. Now we simply need the will of the NT Parliament to make it happen. Whichever coloured political party takes the reigns of government at the end of August needs to stump up and get on with it!
    Phil Walcott
    Independent candidate for Braitling


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