Off-grid Renewables Development To Be Advanced On Flinders Island

A ‘hybrid energy hub’ should enable the majority of Flinders Island’s energy needs to be supplied by renewable energy within two years.
Published: Mon 16 Mar 2015

Hydro Tasmania’s King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP) has been groundbreaking in becoming what is believed to be the world’s first island grid of its size and enabling sustained periods of 100% renewables penetration and displacement of diesel generation. [Engerati-Grid Integration Of Renewables – Five Top Projects and Pushing boundaries of what is possible to do when working with integrated renewables: the King Island Renewables Integration Project]

Now Hydro Tasmania is planning to install the next generation of its ‘hybrid energy hub’ on Flinders Island. The island is located in the Bass Strait approximately 50km (30 miles) off Tasmania’s northeastern tip and is the largest (by area) of the more than 300 islands making up the state of Tasmania.

“Like many remote or island locations, Flinders Island is currently heavily reliant on expensive diesel fuel to supply its electricity needs,” explains project director Simon Gamble. “Diesel fuel remains the single largest expense in these remote systems and using renewable energy makes good economic sense.”

Hybrid energy hub

The development of the hybrid energy hub follows the success of the King Island project, which combines a range of renewable and conventional technologies to reduce diesel consumption for power generation on the island. These include wind, solar, battery storage, flywheels, dynamic resistor technology, dynamic load control and the use of biofuels.

Like the King Island project, the Flinders Island project is also being supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), with funding of up to Au$5.5 million (US$4.3 million) towards the Au$12.88 million (US$10 million) total.

The project is regarded as the next step in off-grid hybrid system development. The hybrid system is expected to displace up to 60% of the annual diesel fuel used on the island to generate electricity.

Reducing costs of storage for off-grid projects

On Flinders Island wind and solar generation will be integrated with the existing diesel power station, along with enabling technologies including flywheel and battery energy storage in a new form designed to drive down the cost of these systems.

Hydro Tasmania’s has worked with Tasmanian manufacturers to develop a series of modular units to house and ship the enabling technologies. This innovation will be developed and tested for the first time through the Flinders Island project.

These modular enabling units should provide a lower cost and scalable solution that will allow easy and rapid transport and installation for renewable energy projects. The units could also serve temporary uses such as in disaster relief or in the mining industry.  

Fabrication and testing of equipment takes place off-site, ensuring a speedy rollout at the final location and reducing the risk, cost and duration of construction.

A game changer for off-grid electrification

One such opportunity is Energy Developments Limited’s Coober Pedy project, incorporating wind, solar and enablers, which aims to achieve a 70% reduction in diesel fuel used for power supply to the South Australia mining township of Coober Pedy. Hydro Tasmania has been assisting EDL with the development phase of this project, which would make use of these new modular enabling units if it proceeds to implementation.

“This low-cost, scalable approach has the potential to be a real game changer in remote areas,” comments ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. “Australia is a large country with many off-grid communities and industries facing similar energy supply challenges, whether they are on islands or in remote locations on the mainland. ARENA is committed to working with Hydro Tasmania to share the learning and expertise from the King Island and Flinders Island projects.”

The Flinders Island project is due for completion in November 2016.