The Yulara Solar Project, commissioned in March 2016, integrates 1.8 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) into the existing power system at the Yulara Resort near the iconic Uluru in the Northern Territory.
This system could become a showcase for sustainable eco-tourism, setting a benchmark for other remote tourism operations. Outcomes and learnings from the project will be shared in support of knowledge sharing requirements.
The Yulara Solar Project is led by Voyages Indigenous Tourism to find opportunities to reduce the operation’s environmental footprint and manage long-term costs.
The existing power system was fuelled entirely by compressed natural gas (CNG) delivered daily via road train from Alice Springs, 450 km from the resort.
With an abundant solar resource, the integration of solar PV into the power system was identified as a way to manage the resort’s expenditure on energy over the long term, reduce exposure to energy price volatility and decrease the resort’s overall carbon emissions.
Having completed detailed feasibility studies and concept designs, the owners of Ayers Rock Resort, Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, conducted an innovative tendering process for construction of a 1.8 MW PV system.
Voyages used an Availability Leasing model, instead of a more traditional Power Purchase Agreement, which more effectively shares long-term risks and opportunities of running solar PV systems in remote areas. Using this model, Voyages is funding the entirety of its lease obligations through savings on existing energy expenditure,
The 1.8 MW solar PV system consists of five individual component arrays ranging in size from 150 kW to 1 MW. The combined system provides approximately 15% of Yulara’s average electricity demand and 30% of peak demand..
The separate solar PV arrays are physically dispersed around Yulara, located near points of high demand and integrated into a local (mini) distribution grid. This dispersed approach is expected to minimise network variability and increase reliability during cloud events.
Epuron and its construction partner CPS National were awarded the tender to construct the system. Voyages is funding the entirety of its lease obligations to Epuron through savings on existing energy expenditure, demonstrating that renewable energy can be commercially competitive with fossil fuels in remote, off-grid locations.
The project will create positive renewable energy story to be shared with resort guests, business partners and the Yulara community.
It will also:
- demonstrate how to deploy solar PV utilising innovative tendering and commercial models
- demonstrate the advantages of PV integration with an existing mini-grid
- reduce operating costs for both the resort and its existing electricity supplier (Power and Water Corporation)
- generate relevant and useful knowledge to be shared with the energy industry.