THE Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has pledged A$18.5 million in financial support for a renewable energy, diesel hybrid project at Coober Pedy in South Australia.

Energy Developments Limited (EDL) is proposing to combine wind, solar and diesel to provide the town with 70 per cent renewable energy over the life of the project.

“With ARENA’s support, EDL is seeking to integrate up to 2 MW of solar PV, 3 MW of wind generation and enabling technologies into its existing 3.9 MW diesel power station at Coober Pedy,” ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said.

“This ambitious project may demonstrate a combined approach for powering off-grid Australian communities that currently rely solely on expensive trucked-in diesel.”

EDL managing director Greg Pritchard said the project could be the first of many.

“We see this ARENA supported project as the precursor to other renewable hybrid projects that we are keen to implement throughout Australia to meet our customer’s growing interest in these energy solutions, and to significantly displace existing diesel generation,” he said.

The project will include short-term energy storage, fast start diesel engines and an advanced control system to enable smooth operation.

“These enabling technologies have been successfully tried and tested by Hydro Tasmania at the ARENA-supported King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project and this represents an opportunity to see them evolve for use on the mainland and in an outback community that has few alternative energy options,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Further demonstration of these technologies is expected to reduce costs over time and improve opportunities for future deployment without subsidies”

EDL has identified a long-term pathway to commercialisation by demonstrating the potential to progressively deploy renewable solutions at off-grid locations as technology costs reduce and fossil fuel costs increase.

According to ARENA, EDL intends to restructure its existing power purchasing agreement with the District Council of Coober Pedy with a new 20-year agreement, providing a long-term customer base to support the renewable energy project.

“Australia’s energy demand is growing off the grid and this landmark project will show how high penetration renewable energy projects can deliver safe, reliable power to off-grid communities,” Mr Frischknecht said.

The project is subject to a final investment decision by EDL, along with approvals and agreements.

EDL is targeting project completion and commencement of commercial operations in mid-2017.