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The government of the Northern Territory of Australia has teamed up with the federal government agency, Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to fund AU$55 million in off-grid solar installations.

The state government and ARENA will provide AU$27.5 million each for 10MW of solar, across 30 off-grid communities, of which 9MW will be distributed solar systems, and a 1MW PV facility using advanced technologies for cloud forecasting and energy storage.

The installations will cut costs of solar systems for off-grid communities and help meet rising energy costs and demand. The project will be managed by the Indigenous Essential Services, a subsidiary of the Power and Water Corporation (PWC).

The solar project was announced by ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, the minister for industry, Ian Macfarlane, and Northern Territory chief minister, Adam Giles in the Northern Territory capital city, Darwin.

Frischknecht said the project will “open the door to a more diverse, secure energy mix for off-grid communities, and will also create local jobs and boost skills during construction and operation".

The distributed installations will result in 15% diesel fuel replacement, and the 1MW facility in 50% diesel replacement. 

Frischknecht said remote communities had, for too long, no option but to rely on diesel generators that were expensive to run and subject to volatile fuel prices. “Importantly, the project will demonstrate the enormous advantages of solar/diesel hybrid systems in delivering cost-effective, reliable and safe power to remote locations.”

Frischknecht said the project was also a good example of federal and state governments working together to address Australia’s energy challenges. “One of our goals with this project is to show it makes good economic sense to utilise existing infrastructure in off-grid communities and to roll out robust solar PV that is suited to the environment and conditions in remote Australia."

This project “will further advance the use of renewable energy systems as part of ‘business-as-usual’ operations for off-grid locations in Australia and beyond”, said Frischknecht.