Australia Defence Looks To Solar Power To Cut Costs, Lift Security

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Originally published on RenewEconomy

The Australian Department of Defence has made its first major push into solar energy, calling a tender for solar power system to be installed at its Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS) at Kojarena, near Geraldton, in Western Australia.

In what is expected to the first of many such moves, Defence is calling for a 1.2MW solar system to reduce the station’s reliance on the main grid, known as the South-West Interconnected System (SWIS), and to boost energy security at its installations.

The tender documents were posted this week, and they note that Defence is the biggest user of energy in the federal government, but is “uniquely” positioned to be able to integrate renewable energy on its vast “estate”.

The ADSCS site is among the first to make the transition, thanks to its excellent solar resources, but is clearly just a forerunner for other projects.

“It is Defence’s vision to be a leader in sustainable environmental management to support the capability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to defend Australia and its national interests,” the document says.

It notes that the solar array is intended to reduce costs – because it will be cheaper than importing grid power – and it says it will create “energy security” options in the future, and build the department’s expertise with renewable energy.

Indeed, it suggests other renewable energy projects are also planned, as the project will enable defence to use its knowledge to “replicate elsewhere” in the Estate.

It will also “create a positive public image and good reputation within the local community and wider population” and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

There are no plans to build storage at this stage, and the facility will not export back into the grid as its output will be consumed on site. The project is due to be completed in the current 2017/18 financial year.

The Kojarena facility is part of the US signals intelligence and the analysis network Echelon, and has four satellite tracking dishes which intercept communications from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani regional satellites, according to Wikipedia.

The US defence department has its own ambitious goals of sourcing 25 per cent of its electricity from renewables, and the creation of a “green fleet” in its Navy. Apart from cost savings, using renewables were possible also reduced the huge risks involved in supply lines.

The Australian facility near Geraldton is following the path of other major energy users in the area seeking to reduce costs by sourcing at least part of their energy needs through solar, or wind energy.

In June, a garnet mining company south of Kalbarri signed up for a 3MW wind and solar farm with battery storage, so it can access cheaper and more reliable energy, given its problems with outages caused by storms, bushfires and salt-water.

It will consider going “100 per cent renewable” and removing the ties to the grid if the system works out well. Further north, in Exmouth, the local power company Horizon Power took the Exmouth Golf Club off grid this month to save the cost of grid upgrades. It will use mostly solar and storage, with some diesel on standby.


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Giles Parkinson

is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

Giles Parkinson has 596 posts and counting. See all posts by Giles Parkinson