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Redeployable solar to be trialled on shopping centres

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today announced funding for an Australian start up Solpod Pty Ltd (Solpod) to trial installing redeployable rooftop solar on commercial and government buildings.

Solpod has developed an innovative new way of fixing solar panels to roofing by using a re-deployable racking and mounting system, offering the ability to quickly remove the panels to be deployed elsewhere.

This innovation allows commercial tenants to access rooftop solar.

The $5 million project will see Solpod’s redeployable solar panel systems installed at 25 sites across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland totalling nearly 2.5 MW capacity, with each site possessing up to 100 KW of solar PV. On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA is committing $975,000 towards the project.

In partnership with ERM Power, Solpod will be trialled at shopping centres, commercial and government buildings – owned by property owners including GPT and Property NSW, who will each install 10 pods.

ERM Power sourced and contracted the property owners and is administering the delivery of the demonstration program for these customers including billing the Solpod power purchase agreements.

Solpod’s system involves manufacturing prefabricated commercial scale solar panels raised on aluminium pods which are fixed with industrial strength adhesive to the roof surface. Solpod’s “pods” are manufactured in Melbourne, and can be installed within hours.

Solpod’s pods will be able to be rolled out in any size configuration, helping building tenants benefit from rooftop solar PV where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said Solpod’s innovative redeployable solar system opens up new markets for rooftop solar installation.

“Solpod’s new way of installing solar will pave the way for businesses who were previously locked out of rooftop solar to take up renewable energy solutions and options under shorter term power purchase agreements.

“This Australian start up will help to accelerate solar PV innovation and allows for renewable energy alternatives in niche markets, providing a cost-competitive alternative to standard methods of fixed mounting for delivering rooftop grid connected solar PV,” Mr Miller said.

Solpod founder and CEO James Larratt said: “Despite rooftop solar being cheaper and more sustainable than the grid, many businesses have made the rational decision to not adopt solar because of other factors such as length of commitment, disruption on site and damage to buildings. Solpod is the game-changer that removes these barriers and enables businesses to capture the savings in energy costs.”

“Solpod’s solution can adapt to meet individual business needs. For businesses that rent their premises, Solpod can offer short-term contracts to match lease terms. For landlords, Solpod allows flexibility for changing site use and will not damage the roof,” he said.

ERM Power CEO Jon Stretch said Solpod and ERM Power are set to revolutionise the way large scale commercial solar energy is rolled out in Australia and the rest of the world.

“Solpod’s innovation in commercial solar installation is ground breaking. Commercial buildings, logistics and large scale industrial operators can purchase pods or lease them, and enjoy the benefits of significantly lower solar installation costs, slash their power bills and have the ability to take the Solpod installation with them anytime in the future,” Mr Stretch said.

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 141KB)

Renewables set to revolutionise Australian resource processing

ARENA last week announced $490,000 in funding for WA-based Element 25 to explore whether electrolytic manganese metal can be produced with renewable energy, without reducing the quality of the finished product.

Traditionally reliant on grid connected power sources that can provide a steady and continuous flow of energy, the company says that introducing renewable energy to their electrowinning processes will have environmental and economic benefits.

Stockpiled ore at a manganese mine

The process of electrowinning passes an electric current through a solution containing manganese, depositing the metal on a cathode in an electroplating process. It is used in the production of speciality steel as well as the creation of lithium ion batteries.

Tests for the desktop study will be undertaken at Murdoch University’s Extractive Metallurgy Division in Perth. That will include investigating how electrolytic manganese metal responds to variable sources of renewable energy like wind and solar, at a laboratory scale.

Consultants Advisian have been engaged to find the best mix of renewable energy sources to power the project.

“Electrowinning is a very electricity intensive process,” Element 25 Executive Director Justin Brown said.

He says the world-first project aims to lay the foundations for a higher penetration of renewable energy to be introduced to the electrowinning process.

“Firstly because it’s cleaner and greener, and secondly because on the crossover on the levelised cost (of electricity) it’s actually cheaper as well.

“There is an economic benefit and an environmental benefit,” he said.

According to Brown, electrowinning typically relies on very flat power supplies, making the introduction of variable wind and solar a challenge.

“Obviously the wind ebbs and flows, but we are testing if we can we design a plant that uses that variable electricity supply and not affect the quality of the product.”

The project is the latest example of a large energy user embracing renewables not only to lighten their environmental footprint, but also reduce costs. Element 25 say electricity represents as much as 40 per cent of their operational expenses.

“If we can do that, because the electricity provided by the wind is cheaper than our gas base case, we will get an overall cheaper cost of power,” he said.

The study will be undertaken as part of E25’s Butcherbird development in Western Australia’s Pilbara, which is to become Australia’s largest onshore manganese resource.

The Butcherbird manganese deposit is located south of Newman in Western Australia. Image: Element 25

Brown says one of the criticisms of Australian miners is that they have a track record of digging ores up and shipping them offshore for processing.

“A lot of value gets shipped offshore and there’s not a lot of oversight on how those minerals are processed in terms of the environmental impact of those processes that happen in a downstream country.”

The company aims to show that a high purity product can be produced entirely in Australia, blazing a trail for copper, lead, zinc, nickel, aluminium and others to follow.

“That should open the door for the whole mining industry in Australia to get access to competitive power through renewables and do a lot more of the downstream processing in Australia, rather than shipping it offshore,” he said.

There could be benefits for storing renewable energy too, with manganese an core ingredient in the NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) batteries used in electric vehicles.

“Our process will allow us to produce that very high purity manganese sulfate which is what they need to make those batteries,” he said.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said he believes the project could open up new opportunities for renewable energy to be integrated into the processing of metals.

“The resource processing sector is an area in which there is currently low penetration of renewables,” Darren Miller said.

“Renewables could be expanded to other types of metal processing, increasing the opportunities for Australia to export renewable energy or emission-free resources to the world.”

“If the project shows that renewables are a viable option, it could even create a new industry where ore is processed here using Australia’s low cost renewable energy sources rather than having the raw product exported and processed offshore using fossil fuel based energy,” he said.

Wind and solar forecasting trial looks into the future

ARENA has announced that 11 projects will share in $9.41 million as part of the short-term forecasting funding round, which has set out to improve the stability of the grid and make electricity cheaper.

The recipients are located across Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales, and make up nearly half of Australia’s registered wind and solar farms farms. The participating generators collectively account for 3.5GW of the renewable energy output in the National Electricity Market (NEM).

Fulcrum3D have developed a system that can detect cloud movements. Image: Fulcrum3D

The trial has been launched to find out whether renewable generators are able to forecast their future output for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in almost real-time.

Providing information to the market on a five-minute-ahead basis, the trial aims to improve the accuracy of energy forecasts from wind and solar farms as they bid into the NEM. Factors that affect the accuracy of forecasts in different weather conditions and environments will also be investigated.

ARENA is undertaking the trial in partnership with AEMO, who have responsibility for predicting the output from wind and solar generators.

Currently, AEMO provide centralised forecasts for semi-scheduled generators such as wind and solar farms, while traditional fossil fuel power plants are able to provide their own forecasts.

If AEMO’s forecasts are inaccurate and there is a shortage of supply, the electricity system can become unstable and operating costs can rise.

When AEMO overestimate the supply of energy, wind and solar farms are penalised for not meeting the projections, or forced to curtail production if the forecast is overly conservative and exceeded.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the trials aim to create ways for wind and solar to do five-minute forecasts, just like traditional power plants.

“Much like traditional energy generators, we’re aiming to show that renewable
energy is now capable of providing accurate measurement of energy output,” Darren Miller said.

“Improving forecasting of wind and solar generation will help better integrate variable renewable energy into the grid, reduce grid instability and reduce costs. It is a win-win for everyone,” he said.

Under market changes facilitated by AEMO as part of the initiative, wind and solar farms will be able to submit their own five-minute ahead forecasts to AEMO, for use in central dispatch.

The portfolio of 11 projects will involve a range of weather forecasting technologies including onsite cloud cameras that can predict the timing and impact of a passing clouds on a solar farm, wind speed radars, Japanese weather satellites, infrared, crunching of Bureau of Meteorology data and machine learning algorithms.

AEMO Chief Executive Officer Audrey Zibelman said it is important to support these emerging technologies as renewables make up a greater proportion of the energy mix.

“As the market operator, we require the best possible information in real-time to manage the secure and reliable delivery of energy to Australian consumers, 24/7,” said Ms Zibelman.

Electricity demand drops as solar surges

In the new report, AEMO says the average level of demand across the NEM dropped to the lowest level since 2002 in the fourth quarter of 2018, and that South Australia set a new all-time minimum demand record on October 21.

It attributes the drop in demand to the growing uptake of rooftop solar, as well as improvements to efficiency and a decline in energy intensive industries.

The lower demand did not translate to lower wholesale electricity prices, which reached record levels during the quarter in all regions except Tasmania.

AEMO say a range of factors can be blamed for the high prices, including the closure of 4,000 MW of coal power generation in recent years, unplanned outages at Victorian brown coal power stations during the quarter, and high gas prices.

In a sign of the challenges the market has ahead as more solar and behind the meter assets come online, Queensland also set a new record for peak demand on February 14.

ARENA is supporting work that integrates consumer-owned small scale assets – known as distributed energy resources -into the electricity network, recently announcing nearly $10 million in funding for 12 new projects and studies.

There are already more than two million rooftop solar installations nationwide, up from just 14,000 a decade ago.

According to Green Energy Markets December Renewable Energy Index, these rooftop solar systems provided for more than six per cent of Australia’s electricity during December. As a share of the total generation mix, rooftop solar is rapidly catching up to hydropower.

By 2050, this is expected to increase to up to 45 per cent of all generation, according to forecasts by AEMO and CSIRO.

In late 2018 ARENA CEO Darren Miller launched the Distributed Energy Integration Program – a collaboration between energy sector peak bodies and industry and consumer associations.

Lastek Measurement Guidelines for Tandem Solar Cells Project

Planning for the future with solar forecasting

Natural weather fluctuations could pose problems as more solar comes online, potentially undermining the stability of the local distribution network and limiting the amount of excess solar power than can be exported.

In the search for solutions, ARENA has provided funding to researchers at the Australian National University (ANU). Together with most of Australia’s electricity distribution network service providers (DNSP), they have developed a system able to predict the near-term output of power solar panels, factoring in natural variables like weather.

The scale of the challenge was outlined in a report published by ARENA late last year. Mapping out the challenges that network operators face from the rise in rooftop solar, the research also details opportunities likely to arise from the work underway to improve forecasting.

How does solar forecasting work?

Utilising state of the art forecasting technologies, Australian company Solcast is partnering on the project. They will detect, track and predict the future positions of cloud cover using weather satellites and weather models. This information allows Solcast to forecast solar PV output, which can be converted to power output predictions.

Given the output of a solar PV system is dependent on the strength of sunlight available, better understanding the variables could help DNSPs to forecast the amount of electricity they will need to supply from the grid.

In areas with low PV penetration, making these calculations is rarely a problem. Energy produced from rooftop installations is first consumed on-site with any excess exported into the local network and consumed nearby, where the supply of grid power is generally sufficient to provide voltage stability.

The problems start when the number of solar systems increases and the power generated by PVs approaches – or exceeds – the total load in that area at any point in time. This can make it hard to predict the total load on the system and lead to voltage fluctuations, increased wear and tear on transformers and tripping of protection devices.

ANU’s project has set out to address two of these issues – the lack of visibility of how much energy is generated by solar, and the voltage fluctuations associated with short-term variability PV output.

The first challenge arises from the way that energy from rooftop solar systems is metered. Because only the amount exported to the grid is measured, not the total produced by the solar panels, DNSPs cannot know how much energy the systems generated, how much they are likely to generate in future, or at what time of day they are likely to generate it in future.

To address this problem, the ANU project is using the Solcast forecasting and modelling systems to estimate the amount of power produced every 10 minutes. If there is sustained cloud cover in an extreme weather event and the grid is needed to supply all of the energy load, this will provide an understanding of true level of demand.

The project aims to address the second problem by providing short-term forecasts (“nowcasts”) and work with DNSPs to prepare for solar induced voltage fluctuations arising from clouds shading solar systems, particularly in areas of high penetration when large numbers of systems are affected at the same time.

As DNSPs do not have the tools required to execute the necessary response to these events, this information alone won’t be enough to manage potential drops in voltage. However, the project will improve the modelling of load flows in a network where energy flows in two directions. This is different to previous studies undertaken prior to the growth of solar which assumed a unidirectional energy flow.

Not only will this help DNSPs to identify where there is potential for overload on the grid as a result of drops in voltage, it provides a step towards developing the tools required to respond to these events.

The report acknowledges that ‘significant’ investment will be needed to develop systems that allow the network to communicate with customer devices and even operate them remotely, so it won’t happen overnight. But once these tools are developed, the data collected through the ANU project could help distribution businesses to act on variations in solar output.

What does this mean for the network of the future?

Relevant to large solar farms as well as distributed installations such as household rooftops, the forecasts aim to provide system operators with the information they need about how much load can be met by solar, and how much of the heavy lifting will need to be met by centrally dispatched generation.

This type of information will be vital to maintain stable energy supplies as the shift to renewables accelerates, and the network becomes increasingly distributed.

The technology underpinning the forecasting system is already working. The ANU project is complementing work Solcast has underway with large Australian solar farms to provide forecasts from just five minutes ahead.

Looking to the future, there are options available to manage the potential impacts of a high penetration of solar.

Distributors could invest network improvements and uprate feeders and substations, or install line drop compensators to help maintain a constant voltage. Restrictions could be placed on the amount of power that can be exported back to the grid, or in the longer term consumers could allow DNSPs to take control of their solar system and storage to manage variability in output.

Together with ARENA funded projects like NOJA’s Power Intelligent Switchgear, UTS’ Networks Renewed and UQ’s Increasing Visibility of Distribution Networks to Maximise PV Penetration Levels, there is work underway to develop tools and techniques to manage high solar penetration.

While we don’t necessarily have all the tools to solve these problems yet, work is underway to manage the challenges as the renewable energy transition accelerates, and Australia’s energy system becomes increasingly distributed.

Read the full report here.

Schools set to shine with solar in 2019

Last month, the Northern Territory Government embarked on a $5 million project to put solar PV on up to 25 schools, which is expected to cut energy bills by as much as 40 per cent.

Schools are ideally suited to solar energy, as their energy usage is highest during school hours during the day when the sun is shining. Unlike households where demand spikes as people get home in the evenings, demand for energy in schools drops off when class finishes in the afternoon.

The first round of the program has already allocated $1.5 million to kick off the planning process at the first ten schools. Eight are expected to be completed by the end of the financial year, with a further six scheduled for the second round in 2019/2020 and five more in 2020/2021.

The schools have been selected based on their energy consumption, with priority given to the highest users. Government primary and secondary schools are among the 19 included in the initial announcement.

The $5 million solar schools program is part of the government’s Roadmap to Renewables plan.

Making the announcement, Territory Minister for Renewables and Essential Services Dale Wakefield said the government is working towards a power system with more solar and less gas.

But it isn’t expected to be all plain sailing. In late 2018 ARENA hosted an A-Lab in Alice Springs to workshop ways to accommodate all the incoming renewable energy into a grid that is already straining with just eight per cent renewable penetration.

Themed “small enough to manage, big enough to matter”, Alice Springs was identified as a test case to overcome challenges facing the National Electricity Market  as more distributed energy and more renewables come online in the grid.

HIVVE TAKE CLASSROOMS OFF-GRID

Territorians aren’t the only ones looking at how renewable energy could help ease energy costs and reduce demand on the grid for schools.

Western Sydney-based HIVVE have developed an innovative way to provide the benefits of solar to schools using solar powered portable classrooms.

With $368,000 in funding from ARENA in late 2017, the start-up has installed state-of-the-art modular relocatable classrooms, powered by rooftop solar PV and battery storage.

In November, the third HIVVE classroom was officially opened at Bracken Ridge High School in Brisbane’s northern suburbs.

Unlike their first two classrooms – located at Dapto High and St Christopher’s Primary in NSW – the newest relocatable will operate entirely off-grid. With energy generated on the roof of the classroom stored in a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery, the system is able to generate 7600 KWh of electricity beyond its own requirements.

The excess energy will be utilised across other school buildings with a behind the meter connection, reducing the school’s overall reliance on grid power.

When the Bracken Ridge portable was launched, HIVVE co-founder Richard Doyle said solar power has an energy profile perfectly matched to the demands of a school day.

He sees an opportunity for their technology to be rolled out widely, with the management system able to be retro-fitted to existing school buildings and relocatable classrooms.

While the Territory are focussed on solar energy to power schools, the potential for HIVVE portables to be equipped with batteries to run off grid can avoid the need for schools to pay significant upfront connection costs as schools expand or are redeveloped.

HIVVE believe their renewably powered classrooms could help to meet a NSW Government pledge to spend $500 million installing air conditioning at 1000 schools, without draining the grid.

Doyle said their system could have particular value given “many schools on the Eastern seaboard are currently at capacity on grid connection.”

Conversion of remote crude oil beam pumps to solar & battery project

Alice Springs – a testbed for the future energy market?

To those within the energy sector, Alice Springs represents an unique opportunity and one that could be of great significance to the National Energy Market.

With a population of 25,000 and a mix of residential households, commerce, industries and an airport, the town has an electrical grid that is of a size and complexity that makes it an ideal testing ground for ideas that could lead to a successful transition to a clean energy future.

Along with the rest of the Northern Territory, it faces the daunting challenge set by the Territory government’s pledge that 50 percent of the power supply would be sourced from renewables by 2030.

With this in mind, 50 industry representatives from across the Northern Territory and the country, came together in Alice Springs at the latest ARENA A-Lab workshop to examine the local grid and discuss ways for how this could be achieved. The gathering was co-hosted by the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy.

The theme that Alice Springs was “small enough to manage, big enough to matter” pointed towards the town’s position as a test case for challenges that would be faced in the wider market as greater levels of renewables were fed into the system.

“It is a system that has a lot of the characteristics of many places in the NEM itself, and also the broader Australian system, but it’s at that scale where you really can test and trial and innovate and a scale that’s meaningful but not too cost prohibitive,” said A-Lab’s project lead Phil Cohn, an investment director in ARENA’s Business Development and Transactions team.

“Really importantly you’ve got government and community buy-in for progressively driving on renewable energy as well. That mix of the scale and the physical characteristics alongside the community buy-in make it a great place to trial new ways of working the grid.

“Alice Springs has this history of being a bit of a leading light nationally. They were a solar city a decade ago and they’re wanting to retake that initiative … to show how you can run a grid with high penetration renewables.”

Need for innovation

Intyalheme general manager Sara Johnson said renewables penetration in Alice Springs stood at eight percent, while for the Territory it was only four percent, although that would be doubled by the recent commitments to solar farms around Darwin.

“It’s a really ambitious target particularly when you consider the physical challenge they have in terms of the grid configuration,” Cohn said.

“It’s actually a series of relatively small individual grids, there’s a Darwin-Katherine system, the Alice Springs system and a lot of isolated micro-grids and communities, and they’ve set themselves a target to hit 50 percent by 2030.”

Another challenge faced by the Territory’s energy sector was is the limited diversity of renewable resources available, with solar currently the only viable option. Rebecca Mills, general manager of major projects at Territory Generation said without alternative energies, – such as wind and hydro – achieving the target would be reliant on “oversizing solar systems” and storing the energy which was currently a costly process.

So how can the Northern Territory hit its 50 percent target?

“We’ve undertaken some modelling that really shows the first 30 percent will be reasonably achievable as long as some of the network constraints [can be] dealt with, but that’s really just matching supply and demand during the day-time hours.

“It’s possible but it will be challenging.”

Jim McKay, Power and Water Corporation’s chief engineer of power services, said it was good to have an ambitious target, but a number of issues must be resolved with the Alice Springs stand-alone grid before it could be achieved and “not being connected to other jurisdictions, these problems come upon us pretty quickly”.

ARENA’s Phil Cohn at A-Lab

For example, Alice Springs’ grid needs to find new ways to stabilise and smooth frequency fluctuations from variable solar generation.

“Some of the challenges that places like South Australia are facing now, in regards to inertia, we’ve always had underlying in our network and with the advent of additional PV those problems have to be resolved before we’re able to achieve the really high levels of penetration,” McKay said.

“We won’t be able to reach the target (particularly in Alice Springs), without some innovative thinking.”

“We’re not inter-connected and we can’t rely on other people to help support the network or get by when the sun’s not shining or those sort of things.

“We have to find solutions from start to finish completely within our boundaries.”

However, Intyalheme general manager Sara Johnston said the local industry players were committed to reaching the target and working through these challenges.

“Everyone’s really engaged and onboard and wants to be part of the solution,” she said.

A-Lab workshops

Sara Johnston said Intyalheme was established by the NT government to promote collaborative solutions. It was, in a sense, a recognition that the target would not be reached through individual stakeholders pursuing their own agendas.

It is a philosophy that has a natural synergy with ARENA’s A-Lab mission to create cross-sector partnerships and innovative projects to transform Australia towards a clean energy future.

The A-Lab workshop was held over two days. The participants, which included senior industry representatives, toured key power system locations on the first day before they participated in a workshop designed to identify pathways to the desired future of 2030.

The participants developed proposals and designed pitches that were presented to an expert panel, known as the ‘Dolphin Tank’ (a friendly ‘shark tank’), that included the Northern Territory Minister for Renewables and Essential Services, the Hon Dale Wakefield, MLA. The intention is for Intyalheme and ARENA to work with the participants to fully develop and put the selected ideas into action.

“You go from a group of people who don’t know each other and facilitate conversations about the key questions, issues, barriers and opportunities around the future shape of the energy system in the Northern Territory, and then converge on specific project opportunities to help us realise that future,” Phil Cohn said.

 

“That culminated in the pitch presentations with the real intent for both Intyalheme and ARENA to take a look at those ideas and work with those key stakeholders to potentially take some of those forward to implementation.”

Rebecca Mills said the A-Lab sessions demonstrated that everyone was on a similar path.

“We have some different views about how to get there but it’s good to have those discussions and have the likes of ARENA and Intaylheme, who can focus on bringing it altogether over the next couple of years or putting into place an action plan for us,” she said.

The ideas that were pitched included:

  • New ways of forecasting the impact that clouds will have on PV production through the entire grid, and balancing that impact by matching it against flexible loads.
  • Using waste-to-energy technology at a water and sewerage treatment plant that would generate energy but also treat water that could be used for agriculture. This would be particularly valuable in Alice Springs which has a limited water supply.
  • Using solar power to create hydrogen which can be stored in the existing gas network.
  • Exploring ways for the large transient workforce and low income and rental communities to access solar energy by buying a share of a community-owned solar farm that also uses battery storage.

Sara Johnston said Intyalheme has already began early planning on a project based on the ideas of the A-Lab sessions that would include a suite of actions over the next three to four years.

Oil and gas giant embraces renewable energy

The unlikely alliance will see Santos convert 56 of its crude oil pumps to run on solar PV and battery storage systems in the Cooper Basin – a remote resources vein running from north-east South Australia across the border into Queensland.

The sun drenched, off-grid location is a perfect match for solar, proven by
a pilot solar beam pump that has operated continually since August. The success of the trial has shown that the renewable energy can withstand the harsh desert environment and paved the way for the rollout of new solar pumps.

The solar array powering the pilot pump

Santos say the project will reduce emissions and waste from the oil production process. Converting the pumps to solar is predicted to save 140 barrels of oil every day and lay the foundations for Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer to swap a further 151 Cooper Basin pumps to run on renewables.

With a total of 3.2 MW of solar PV to be installed across the remote pump sites, the $16 million project will deploy battery storage at each location to supply the oil pumps with 100 per cent renewable energy.

Santos Managing Director and CEO Kevin Gallagher said renewable energy will reduce costs by cutting fuel consumption and eliminating the need to transport fuel to remote wells.

“Our own consumption of fuel in the Cooper Basin is equivalent to about five per cent of east coast domestic gas demand, so if we can extend our use of renewables across our operations, we can also free up more natural gas for sale, which is a good way to put downward pressure on gas prices,” Kevin Gallagher said.

The rollout of solar pumps is ARENA’s first off-grid application of renewables in the oil and gas industry. Aiming to prove the reliability of renewables for this type of operation, the project could provide a blueprint for other resources companies to follow.

ARENA is providing $4.3 million towards the project, which ARENA CEO Darren MIller says will complement ARENA’s previous work with the resource sector.

“Assisting the resources sector in turning to renewable alternatives is something we’re extremely proud of,” Darren Miller said.

“Santos will be ARENA’s first off-grid project with the oil and gas industry, building upon our previous support for implementing renewable energy at mining operations around Australia, reducing reliance on diesel and oil,” he said.

Delivering renewable energy to remote communities and mines to replace diesel was one of the first ARENA initiatives, launched soon after the agency’s inception in 2012.

In 2014, ARENA supported Rio Tinto to build a 6.7MW solar farm at remote bauxite operation in Weipa, Queensland. The first example of renewables powering an off-grid mining operation, the project has helped to insulate the mining giant from fluctuations in diesel prices.

In 2016, a solar-diesel hybrid system was commissioned at Sandfire’s Degrussa Copper Mine, utilising a solar-hybrid system backed up by battery storage. Saving about five million litres of diesel every year, the world-leading project has led the way for other mining companies to embrace renewables.

Creating a secure supply of energy is emerging as a key motivator for resources companies like Sandfire and Rio Tinto to embrace renewables. Providing a buffer from the fluctuating cost of grid power or diesel, without the risks of network outages or practical realities like flooded roads in the wet season, renewables are taking off in a sector where cost is king.