A near-$19 million renewable energy microgrid will be operational in the Daintree region by 2024, with the federal governemnt to fund the program.
Renewable energy firm Volt Advisory Group will receive $18.75 million over thee years from the Commonwealth to construct the solar to hydrogen and battery storage facility under the Daintree Microgrid Program.
The grant follows an almost $1 million feasibility study completed in 2020, supported through the $50 million Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund.
Industry minister Angus Taylor said the microgrid would improve the affordability, reliability, and resilience of electricity supply to the Daintree region.
“This is a major win for communities in the Daintree Rainforest, which will see reduced pollution and noise from diesel generators, and will be a valuable demonstration of solar to hydrogen technology” Mr Taylor said.
“The renewable and hydrogen microgrid will use cutting edge technology to reduce emissions and drive down costs by ending the community’s reliance on costly diesel generation.”
This project supports Australia’s target to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 by replacing an annual diesel consumption in the Daintree of more than 4 million litres. At peak capacity the microgrid is expected to supply 8MW of solar energy and 1MW from clean hydrogen, accompanied by 20MWh of battery storage.
Clean hydrogen will be produced using the energy generated by existing and new solar panels as a way to store excess energy. This can then be deployed as electricity needs require. Volt Advisory Group said that this facility will be the first of its kind in the world.
The Daintree Rainforest is in the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics of Queensland, and disturbance will be mitigated by locating the microgrid along roadways and land already cleared.
Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch welcomed the development as a welcome improvement to the wellbeing of the Daintree communities.
“This project, which also includes the laying of new fibre-optic cables, will significantly improve communications in the region and will be welcome news for residents and business owners,” Mr Entsch.
“Microgrid technology is becoming increasingly cost-effective, creating the opportunity for reliable, low-cost, off-grid power in communities like the Daintree.
“But more importantly, from an environmental aspect, it will remove the need to burn dirty and inefficient diesel in the Daintree, allowing residents to have access to a cleaner, more affordable, more reliable source of energy.”
The federal government has invested more than $100 million in total to support microgrid development across regional and remote Australia. This has come under two $50 million programs to support microgrid pilot programs and undertake feasibility studies for the deployment of microgrids.
The Daintree project will have a larger capacity than Australia’s largest microgrid, launched last month. The $15 million Western Australian Kalbarri microgrid has a capacity of 5MW and battery storage of 3.5MWh.
WA-state owned regional energy company Horizon Power has also been undertaking research into solar to hydrogen microgrid technology since 2020.
As well as project design and management, Volt Advisory Group’s expertise encompass financial analysis, regulatory compliance, and funding modelling. The company is also undertaking a microgrid feasibility study for the Wujal Wujal community, also in Far North Queensland.
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