Australian Utility Issues Solicitation for New Way to Power Diesel-Dependent Regions

May 4, 2021
Sophie Vorrath, editor of Australian publication “One Step Off the Grid,” describes a recent solicitation for remote microgrids in Queensland.

Sophie Vorrath, editor of the Australian publication “One Step Off the Grid,” describes a recent solicitation for remote microgrids in Queensland.

Queensland utility Ergon Energy has called for expressions of interest for the provision of low-carbon or renewable energy generation solutions for two diesel fuel-dependent remote communities in the state’s far north, Thursday Island and Bamaga.

The communities, one a Torres Strait Island and the other a town on the northern tip of Cape York, are just two of 33 isolated networks Ergon owns and operates that are too remote to connect to the national electricity grid.

For most of these communities, centralized diesel power stations have been the main source of generation, with more than 8 million gallons of fuel transported to the sites every year. But that is gradually changing.

“Queensland has been leading the way in the renewable energy revolution, including community-scale solar solutions in some of the most remote parts of the state, like Doomadgee, Mapoon, Pormpuraaw, the Northern Peninsula Area, Birdsville and Bedourie,” said Glenn Springall, Ergon’s general manager of renewables and distributed energy, in a statement on Friday. “At Thursday Island and Bamaga, we’re looking to partner with interested parties to investigate and then deliver reliable, cost-effective, and safe low-carbon, carbon neutral or renewable generation solutions.”

Springall said options being considered included inverter-based renewables, such as solar arrays, combined with energy storage, hydrogen or biofuels.

“We’re seeking viable technical solutions that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut the cost of supplying electricity in these isolated communities without impacting reliability,” Springall said.

Ergon supplies electricity to more than 1,400 customers on Thursday Island, where annual energy use is around 24,600 MWh. At Bamaga, around 830 customers use more than 13,300 MWh of power a year.

“Reducing diesel consumption and increasing the supply of renewable energy are the keys to a low carbon future, and this expression of interest reflects that goal, which will ultimately benefit all Queenslanders,” said Springall. “The combined capacity of Ergon’s remote diesel power stations is 46 MW, its existing renewable energy resources have an installed capacity of one megawatt, and customer-owned distributed energy resources are capable of supplying 4.4 MW. We’re heading in the right direction in our isolated communities, but we need to tip the scales to reach the goals outlined in our Low Carbon Future Statement, which supports the Queensland Government’s renewable energy target of 50% by 2030.”

Editors note: Expressions of interest are now open and close on Monday June 7.

This article was originally published on One Step Off the Grid and was reposted with permission.

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