A new renewable energy project in outback South Australia is set to prove the viability of solar and wind power for remote locations.
The project calls for the widespread deployment of solar and wind power in the outback town of Coober Pedy and promises to radically increase the community's usage of renewable energy, thus reducing its dependence upon costly fossil fuels trucked in from afar.
It is being developed by Clean Energy Council member Energy Developments Limited with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and is expected to supply as much as 70 per cent of Coober Pedy's electricity needs.
The EDL project will see the construction of a two-megawatt solar photovoltaic installation and three megawatts in wind power installation, as well as a short-term energy storage facility. These extensive renewable energy facilities provide will take significant pressure off of Coober Pedy's 3.9-megawatt diesel power station, which is currently the mining town's chief source of electricity.
According to Clean Energy Council acting chief executive Kane Thornton, Coober Pedy's sustainability experiment will prove the viability of solar and wind power for outback communities and mining operations in remote areas.
Thornton hailed the project for providing "clean and reliable power to an outback opal mining community which has to weather the constant challenges of extreme heat and dust."
He pointed in particular to reduction in dependence on diesel fuels, which must be trucked in from elsewhere at significant cost, as a major advantage of renewable energy in remote locations.
"Reducing the amount of expensive diesel that needs to be used is a big win for these communities," he said. "It will also show other outback towns and remote mining operations what is now possible using renewable energy."
Thornton said the EDL project is part of a rising trend of mixed energy portfolios which make use of multiple supply sources.
"As renewable energy gets cheaper and fossil fuels such as diesel become more expensive, these kinds of hybrid renewable-diesel projects start to make more and more sense," he said.
Coober Pedy's EDL project arrives just as leading figures in the mining industry advocate the increased usage of renewable energy to deal with the remote and power-intensive nature of many operations in the resources sector.