In May 2019, a federal government grant of $990,150 backed Daintree Renewable Energy Pty Ltd toward a feasibility study that would take the fully renewable solar baseload-power microgrid to ‘shovel ready’ status within 12 months. If what Federal MP Warren Entsch has said is true, construction on the project should be underway in a matter of months.
“Work commenced in early December 2019,” said Entsch, “and will be finalised in July 2020…The final report will include a complete series of engineering and technical design packages including a detailed energy load profile study, microgrid management design, solar generation and storage analysis and design, electrical and civil work designs and microgrid economic analysis.”
Because the Daintree is a World Heritage Protected Rainforest there are heavy restrictions on planning and development. Because of this, Entsch has also quashed the rumour that further development in the region was on the cards. The microgrid project is it, and, Entsch assures us, it “is being designed to align with the strict planning regime and accommodate energy requirements for existing population and businesses.”
The proposed microgrid would reduce the Daintree area’s reliance on diesel dramatically. Currently, the region relies on four million litres of diesel fuel per year to generate power.
Volt Advisory Group project manager Richard Schoenemann said work on the project was “actually” slightly ahead of schedule. “It will remove the need to burn dirty and inefficient diesel in the Daintree,” said Schoenemann, “allowing customers to have access to a cleaner, more affordable, more reliable source of energy.”
“But more importantly,” Schonemann stressed, “once the concept is demonstrated and up-and-running it will have enormous potential to improve the power supply and lives of people living in remote communities including throughout the Torres Strait.”
Like many remote island communities, Torres Strait Islanders would greatly benefit from the sustainable renewable energy supplied by solar based microgrids.
The federal government grant forms part of its $50.4 million Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund, part of the Morrison Government’s $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund. You may remember the Climate Solutions Fund as the pitiful federal effort toward the nation’s Paris targets that was supposed to be a 10-year investment plan but has already been pushed to 15 years, cutting the investment by 30%.
Under the scheme, the Coalition government plans to support exploratory work for up to 50 off-grid and fringe-of-grid feasibility studies, and take proposals like the Daintree region project to the investment stage.