Big solar prospects but can the network take it?


2544 RePower OK
Solar electricity promoter RePower Alice Springs is forming a close relationship with Territory Generation (T-Gen), the NT Government owned electricity supplier currently using almost entirely fossil fuels.
By 2030 the community group wants Alice to get 100% of its power from the sun, double the target of the NT Government.
However, the community group expects difficulties with PowerWater’s distribution network, also publicly owned – the wires, transformers and software running them.
In fact, RePower’s Tim Brand says if these problems cannot be ironed out it would be cheaper and more efficient for householders to put in their own photovoltaic panels and a battery, making them fully independent from government-provided electricity.
He says his group is founding a company to create a solar farm providing 10% of the town’s demand, enough for 2000 homes, which would take Alice to just below the nation’s 27% solar use. Other private producers are currently providing 15%, including the airport and Uterne.
He says T-Gen’s proposed role is as a tenderer for the management of the farm, or as a shareholder in the company, as required, or both. The total anticipated float is $20m.
Mr Brand says on present indications the shares will be snapped up by private local people and businesses.
And there has already been an offer for the entire issue from one undisclosed source (not the government).
Mr Brand told the meeting of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs last week: “It’s an easy way to go solar.”
Currently T-Gen is installing 10 gas fired generators, at a cost of 75m.
It is clear that the failure to use a substantial part of these funds for solar was one of the contributing factors for the CLP’s disastrous showing in the 2016 elections.
Mr Brand says a survey by RePower last year revealed that 70% of the residents wanted 80% or more of the town’s power to be from renewable sources by 2030, and 92% wanted access to a green energy source.
RePower is now conducting a fresh “solar investment opportunity survey” which canvasses a wide range of responses, giving as much weight to financial considerations as it does to philosophical ones: “What annual return would you like to see?” The suggested options range from 1% to 11%.
The questions about “possible community benefits” range from job creation to greenhouse gas emission reductions.
[We are seeking comment from PowerWater and the Electrical Trades Union.]
Photo: Members of the group in high spirits.


  1. Once again we were far behind in our thinking until this initiative came along.
    Several years ago the CSIRO suggested that by 2050 a full third of current customers would be off grid.
    Newstead in Vic and Tylagum in NSW both got Government backing in the area.
    Moroolabank in Vic instigated their own scheme similar to what is proposed here and bought the town servo with the profits and now have a number of houses independent of he grid.
    Toyota, Ford, GM and others are moving rapidly in EVs. Volvo will not be making petroleum powered vehicles after 2030 and Tesla has fully electric trucks under test.
    How are we planning to cater? Will we retrofit the town? And at what cost?
    Lend Lease has a complete subdivision (Alkinos) North of Perth where the houses generate their own power and sell the surplus to each other via a battery bank the size of a shipping container while Lismore has its solar panels floating on their sewerage ponds.
    Byron Bay has a wonderful system. Any or all of this could have been done here and perhaps lend Lease should be invited to do the next subdivision here – at Brewer.
    And all this while we have been re fitting our power station with machinery which will be obsolete within a few years and building overpriced houses on land where we could have been displaying all that is possible here with our abundant sunlight.
    The Amaroo school in Canberra is virtually self sufficient, and several shopping complexes (Griffith, Murray Bridge) with far less sun than we have have cut their electricity costs considerably.
    No one notices the boxes alongside the big green shed north of town where over 80% of their power comes from their roof. Again I ask where were our planners when all this was happening?


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