Sunday, July 21, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeVolume 29Power for the asking, in more ways than one

Power for the asking, in more ways than one


The NT Government is charging you five times as much for electricity compared to what Fred next door is paying for solar.

Got an envelope? Turn it over. Here we go.

As you’re living in a home of four people you’re using 17 kWh (kilowatt hours) per day.

At 28c per kWh you’re up for $9.90 a day.

To get the same amount of power Fred invested $8000 for solar panels and has a 10% share, with nine neighbours, in a $50,000 battery. His assets using free sunshine are worth $13,000.

Given the equipment’s lifetime of 20 years – 7300 days – that’s $1.78 a day. That’s less than one-fifth of $9.90.

This is not taking into account the 55.42c per day the NT Government is charging you for the wires running past your house, whether or not you are using them, $4045 over 20 years.

That obligatory expense for what will soon become stranded assets and can be removed by the stroke of a politician’s pen. It no doubt will be as public pressure mounts.

Time to have a beer with Fred and yarn about joining his mini grid? Mmmmh.

The occasional expressions of commitment to renewables by our political leaders are not matched by their actions which are in inversely proportional to the amount of sunshine we have.

Just 13% of the town’s electricity consumption is from solar. A mere 3% or 4% comes from the Uterne Solar Farm, south of The Gap and owned by South Korean company Korea Zinc.

The town’s heroes on the march to 50% solar by 2030 are the quarter of Alice’s home owners with panels on the roof and private enterprises such as the airport and the DoubleTree by Hilton.

Apart from a token effort around the civic centre the Town Council is missing in the climate action although it controls lots of empty land that could be used for solar farms.

In fact a tiny fraction of that would suffice to generate all the solar power the town needs.

The percentage of vacant Crown Land within the Alice Springs Municipality is about 26% of it, a total area of 84 square kilometres. Much of that is strewn with garbage.

About two square kilometre is all that would be needed for the array.

Returning to our back of our envelope: The power consumption by Alice Springs in 2021/22 was 197 gWh (billion watt hours), 197,000,000,000 watt hours.

Alice Springs has an average of nine hours of sunshine a day.

In a year a 400 watt panel produces 1,314,000 watt. (Panels producing 400 watt are at the top of the range. Some are as low as 80 watt.)

The town’s total demand of 197,000,000,000 watt hours divided by 1,314,000 watt per panel equals 149,923 panels needed. At $150 per panel that would be $23m.

Former CLP Chief Minister Adam Giles not so long ago spent $100m on ten gas-fired generators.

It is clear we need to think much bigger, in numbers as well as embracing renewables. The notion of power comes into play in both its meanings – political power being the other one.

Are renewables given their appropriate attention by a government obsessed with extracting gas from Beetaloo?

Tariffs are a prime argument in elections – remember, we’ll have one in August. “More power bill support for Territorians from Monday,” is today’s handout.

The government, as a monopoly supplier, caused a furore when it slashed the Feed In Tariff.

And now nuclear has crashed onto the scene, with the Feds in control if there is a change of government next year.

People having their own power – in more ways than one – may well to become a refreshing democratic development.

PHOTO: VIPs at the opening of the Uterne solar power station in July 2011: Thirteen years later the Korean-owned facility is still the biggest array in Alice Springs.


  1. To think the $12.5m wasted on the Alice Springs Future Grid project run by Desert Knowledge plus $5m for the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy could have funded 76% of the cost of the grid needed to supply the entire town with power.


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