A large-scale indigenous housing and infrastructure program, a unique wartime heritage museum, and the Southern Hemisphere’s largest solar tracking power plant have shown that engineering excellence and innovation are alive and kicking in Australia’s Northern Territories.
The National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing and Defence of Darwin Experience won ‘Excellence Awards’ and the Uterne Power Plant received the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) Award for Sustainability.
As part of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing, 143 fully serviced allotments have been developed in three new subdivisions, with 215 new and 247 rebuilt or refurbished houses delivered in Maningrida and Wadeye.
The project included 1.6MW increases in electrical generation in each township as well as the construction of new 1.8 ML and 2.4 ML water storage facilities. Training and employment, a key program requirement, has been provided for more than 260 Indigenous people living in Maningrida and Wadeye.
The Australian and Northern Territory governments are investing $1.2 billion to 2013 across 73 remote communities and a number of town camps to deliver 934 new houses, 415 rebuilds and 2500 refurbishments. Employment has been provided to over 1,300 Indigenous people across the program. That amounts to 30 per cent of the population in the area, significantly higher than the 20 per cent employment target set by government.
Meanwhile, the $10 million Defence of Darwin Experience provides visitors with an immersive, interactive, multimedia experience that extends beyond the traditional museum format.
Project director Mark Dodt said the facility’s construction involved collaboration between the Department of Construction and Infrastructure, the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport, and a team of creative and technical experts.
“The Defence of Darwin Experience provides a memorable visitor experience through the physical environment, the heritage items on display and the tailor-made technology that has been integrated throughout,” he said. “The facility and its technology have now inspired similar institutions interstate and overseas.”
The project entailed the construction of two linked buildings, housing artefacts, displays and supporting services. It also involved integrating an array of technological features and creating a complementary application for smartphones and tablets, making the Defence of Darwin Experience a hub through which people can access the Territory’s World War II heritage. Visitors can even share their own experiences, helping to further build the Territory’s archive of World War II stories and memories.
Sustainability was the key driver of the one megawatt (MW) Uterne solar power plant in Alice Springs. The Southern Hemisphere’s largest tracking solar plant, commissioned by SunPower Corp features more than 3,000 high-efficiency SunPower solar photovoltaic panels, which generate up to 50 per cent more electricity than conventional solar panels. The project also includes the innovative Tracker Monitoring and Control System, which allows Uterne Solar Power Plant operators to wirelessly monitor and control the system in real-time.
During the first few months of operation, Uterne consistently exceeded energy expectations with zero downtime. On average, the one MW system is expected to produce 2,300 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean electricity per year, the equivalent of powering more than 280 homes.
The Uterne Solar Power Plant was constructed in less than six weeks, directly employing Alice Springs-based workers and injecting several million dollars into the local economy during that time. Solar electricity generated by the system is being sold to Power and Water Corp under Australia’s first utility-backed solar power purchase agreement.
The 20-year PPA gives residents of Alice Springs an opportunity to tap into the power of the sun through Power and Water Corp’s GreenPower program. By purchasing GreenPower, customers can invest in solar energy produced by Uterne without the upfront costs or maintenance of a rooftop system. The one MW Uterne solar power plant can supply 10 per cent GreenPower to 2,750 homes each year.
As part of the Alice Solar City program, the Australian Government contributed $AU3.3 million to the $AU6.6 million Uterne project. Alice Springs is one of seven cities participating in the government’s $AU94 million Solar Cities initiative. Each city is running a trial of a combination of technologies, including solar hot water and photovoltaic technology, energy efficiency, load management, smart meters and cost-reflective pricing in large-scale grid-connected urban sites. Data collected from each of the trials will demonstrate how different projects can reduce energy consumption and will inform future policies.