Pilot project reveals potential for other small island states and communities to cut fossil fuels from energy systems
King Island, off the coast of Tasmania, is blazing a trail for other small islands to adopt 100% renewable energy.
State-owned energy supplier Hydro Tasmania has achieved a sustained period of zero diesel operation, of up to 1.5 hours, as part of the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP).
The project combines 2.45MW of predominantly wind energy with storage devices and an automated control system, providing electricity for the 1,700 residents of the island.
Located in the “Roaring 40s” latitudes, King Island has some of the best wind resources on the planet. The project allows diesel generators to be switched off when there is sufficient wind and solar power to meet customer demand.
Hydro Tasmania piloted the project with 150 home owners to gauge public opinion. Reports in the Guardian newspaper suggest this was initially mixed, but organisers say the residents are proud of what has been achieved.
“We have had excellent support from the local community for this project,” Samantha Meyer from King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP) told RTCC.
“Our public events have been very well attended, including approximately a quarter of the island attending our open day at the power station late last year.
“The feedback received during the event was very positive, with people very proud to see such a leading project being pursued on their island.”
Meyer said: “It’s removing diesel from the system that is the significant breakthrough. The number isn’t the critical part of the achievement, it is the fact that the system is able to operate reliably and securely in the absence of a single diesel generator, thus opening up a significant further contribution from renewables.”
Although at least eight countries are 100% renewable already, Hydro Tasmania is the first company to have achieved it on as large a scale as has been done on King Island.
Neighbouring Tokelau announced the completion of a third PV system in November 2012 which means that the New Zealand-owned territory now has the capabilities to be powered by 100% solar energy.
Hydro Tasmania is seeking to commercialise its off-grid energy solutions and export these to customers in Australia, and in due course to the Pacific and the South East Asia region.
Meyer admits that until costs come down, companies will need to be financially supported in the near term for new or even extensions on projects.
“The approach we have developed is suitable for larger scale off-grid power systems. These vary greatly in size but we are most interested in systems in the range of 500kW to several megawatts in load,” said Meyer.
“There are many thousands of similar island power systems across the globe that rely on expensive emissions intensive diesel fuel for electricity supply. We are looking at ways to replicate this approach elsewhere currently and seeking other project opportunities.
“We are currently working on improving the physical form of the technologies that are deployed to these sites, making them more transportable and modular. This would reduce the construction effort and duration on site and make logistics and transport to remote and island communities simpler”.