The King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project aims to reduce King Island’s reliance on diesel fuel and cut its energy costs by $4.5 million a year.
Climate change threatens some of the world’s most pristine and beautiful locations. This includes places like King Island off the north-west coast of Tasmania, which is known for having some of the cleanest air in the world. Unless climate change is tackled head-on, consequences for places like King Island will be dire.
Around 100 years ago, Hydro Tasmania embarked on a clean energy journey and became one of Australia’s leaders in renewable energy development. While they have made great progress, the island still relies on expensive, shipped-in diesel fuel.
So in 2012, Hydro Tasmania launched the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP). KIREIP aims to reduce King Island’s reliance on diesel fuel and cut its energy costs by $4.5 million a year by providing 65 per cent of its energy needs from renewables; even 100 per cent on windy days.
Costing $18.25 million, KIREIP brings together a portfolio of new and existing technologies. Part of the project involved developing a prototype off-grid power plant that combines solar panels, wind turbines and energy storage technology. In just a few years, the facility has reduced emissions considerably, and ensured the quality and reliability of power supply on the island.
This system enables all diesel generation to be switched off when there is sufficient wind and solar power to meet customer demand. The transition from diesel power to renewable energy, and back again if needed, is completely automated, which means that the station can even operate unstaffed.
Although there are remote area power systems in some parts of the world that can supply the energy needs of single homes or small villages, this is the first remote system on this scale that’s capable of supplying the power needs of an entire community, including industrial customers and an extensive distribution network, solely through wind and solar energy.
The project has been a great success in several areas. Two of the most significant include:
Achieving the reality of 100% renewable energy
On several occasions since the new system has been in place, it has generated 100 per cent renewable energy, non-stop, for over 24 hours – and up to 33 hours in one instance. This energy was used to meet the needs of the entire community, including residential and industrial loads, for a full day. This is the first time, anywhere in the world, that this power generation has been achieved at a megawatt scale for such an extended period of time.
Creating a model for success
KIREIP gives a glimpse of the possible future of renewable energy, demonstrating how renewable energy can work with enabling and storage technologies in a hybrid off-grid power system. The solution could benefit off-grid communities on islands and in regional mainland Australia. Already, the success of the project is being replicated by Hydro Tasmania through a similar project on Flinders Island. Hydro Tasmania is currently commercialising its off-grid energy solutions and exporting these to customers in Australia, and has plans to do so throughout the Pacific and the South East Asia region.
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