The Northern Territory Government’s $5 million Rooftop Solar Schools program has started to roll out, with tenders awarded for installation at five schools. Announced last year, the program aims to install rooftop solar on 25 schools over three years.
Under the program, the selected schools, which qualified as top energy users in each Territory region, will save up to 40% of energy costs with the help of rooftop solar. Eight schools have been identified in Round 1 (2018/19), six in Round 2 (2019/20) and five in Round 3 (2020/21). In each of those rounds, two positions are open for Expressions of Interest, which will enable any Territory school to apply for the installation of solar panels.
Installation is now underway at Casuarina Secondary College, the first of the 25 selected schools, and is soon to commence at Katherine High School, Nightcliff Primary School, Palmerston College and Sanderson Middle School. Combined, the first five projects are expected to support 40 local construction jobs, the government says, noting that tenders for a further five schools will be awarded in the coming months.
The NT schools will join the ranks of Australian solar-powered schools and universities seeking to hedge against high electricity prices. Similar to other educational facilities powered by renewables, the NT schools will use direct access to live energy readings and data as a teaching aid across many subject areas.
The $5 million Rooftop Solar in Schools Program is part of is part of the NT government’s Roadmap to Renewables Plan to transition to renewable energy and reach the goal of 50% renewables by 2030. Minister for Renewables and Essential Services Dale Wakefield said the state government is committed to creating local jobs and delivering cleaner and cheaper energy.
“We have the potential to be Renewables Capital of Australia,” Wakefield said. “Just last week, Singapore’s Sun Cable announced plans to power one third of the island nation by building the world’s biggest solar farm in the Territory, which will create 1300 jobs for Territorians.”
Indeed, ambitious plans were announced for a 15,000-hectare solar array near Tennant Creek, which would export electricity to Darwin and overseas to Singapore. As confirmed to pv magazine Australia, an environmental approval application is in the works and Sun Cable has set a timeline to start construction in 2023 with commercial operations to start in 2027.
According to Minister Wakefield, construction is also underway on the $40 million, 25 MW Katherine Solar Farm project, and twin $43 million, 10 MW solar farms at Batchelor and Manton Dam, which, when all are completed by the end of 2019, will mean the Territory is powered by 10% renewable energy.