Australia's Alice Springs Goes Solar

ALICE SPRINGS, Northern Territory, Australia, April 18, 2007 (ENS) - Alice Springs has been named as Australia’s next Solar City, a designation that enables the tourist town to receive government funding for solar installations. It joins Adelaide, Townsville and Blacktown, which all have signed onto the Solar Cities program within the past year.

With A$12.3 million in funding through the Australian government's Solar Cities program, the Alice Springs Solar City consortium is working with all sectors to change how people power their homes and businesses.

The consortium consisting of the Alice Springs Town Council, Northern Territory Government, Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation, the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, Arid Lands Environment Centre, Tangentyere Council and the Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce will contribute an additional $17 million to the project.

town center

Solar panels will be installed at the Alice Springs Town Council Civic Centre. (Photo courtesy NT Government)
Chief Minister Clare Martin was jubilant. "Alice Springs will become one of the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient towns in the country,” she said.

With a population of about 26,500, Alice Springs is a town that has embraced solar energy technology - half of its households already use solar hot water systems.

"It sends a strong message to the world that the Northern Territory is strongly committed to energy conservation and savings," Martin said.

Surrounded by Australia's sunny red rock desert country, Alice Springs is a center for tourists who come to visit the famous Uluru, also called Ayers Rock.

International tourists and residents flying in to Alice Springs will soon see two solar dishes at the airport where solar energy concentrator dishes will be installed in up to four locations to harness sunlight for energy needs.

Large solar systems will be installed at three other locations - the town hall, the sewage treatment facility and an arts center.


The town of Alice Springs (Photo courtesy Government of Australia)
Solar photovoltaic systems will be installed in 225 homes and five commercial premises in Alice Springs, providing 1.3 megawatts of solar power. One thousand homes will receive solar hot water heaters.

There will be a trial of smart meters in 50 businesses and 350 homes, combined with a "time of use" tariff to encourage customers to reduce their energy useage during peak hours.

Residential and commercial customers will be offered a range of energy efficiency services and products, including walk-through energy audits.

"It’s wonderful that our support for Alice Springs to join the Solar Cities program has paid off," said Martin. "The NT Government, Alice Springs Town Council, the Australian Greenhouse Office and several other organizations have all worked together to make this happen."

Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that together the first four Australian Solar Cities will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 76,000 metric tons each year.

"These Solar Cities will install over 3,200 solar photovoltaic panels on private and public housing and other buildings, conduct almost 7,000 energy efficiency consultations, and assist more than 250,000 residents and businesses to learn how to reduce their energy use and save money," Turnbull said.


This solar concentrator dish near Alice Springs is the type that will be installed at the town's airport. (Photo courtesy NT Government)
"Solar Cities is an innovative way to bring together solar technologies, energy efficiency, smart metering and better electricity pricing to create more energy sustainable communities," said Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.

Adelaide became Australia's first Solar City in August 2006, installing 1,700 photovoltaic panels on homes and businesses for a total of two megawatts of solar power and a reduction of 30,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Townsville, Queensland followed in September, and Blacktown, New South Wales became the third Solar City in November.

The Alice Springs Solar City will receive its funding through the Australian government’s $75 million Solar Cities initiative and the Renewable Remote Power Generation Programme.

The Renewable Remote Power Generation Programme aims to increase the uptake of renewable energy technologies in remote areas of Australia that presently rely on fossil fuel for electricity generation.

Both programs are part of the Australian government’s climate change strategy that has committed A$2 billion to develop clean, low emission technologies, build an effective global response to the issue, increase understanding of climate change science, and help communities adapt to the impact of climate change.