Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Bird's eye study of Alice Springs reveals solar potential

The first ever aerial study of Alice Springs’ solar and energy efficiency status reveals significant renewable energy achievements in the town, as well as opportunities for future policy and planning.

The study revealed the number of substantial buildings, white painted roofs, swimming pools, solar hot water and solar photovoltaic (PV) power installations.

“An analysis of the available space on Alice Springs roofs reveals there is space for around 48 MW of solar PV, even allowing for Power and Water size guidelines”, says Alice Solar City General Manager Sam Latz.

“This represents 33% of Alice Springs energy needs, so there’s lots of potential for rooftop solar yet.”

“However past a certain point, we will need additional investment in the network to support the export of surplus energy from where it’s generated to where it’s needed.”

The research was conducted by CAT Projects as part of a broader study that is investigating the implications of increasing solar power in Alice Springs, and was supported by Alice Solar City and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

 “We have been able to extract information that is useful for future planning, such as the potential space for more rooftop PV installations and potential electricity savings if more energy efficiency measures were undertaken.”

“This sort of bird’s eye view of Alice Springs allows us to see how far we have come, but perhaps more importantly, where we go in the future”, said Mr Latz

“Since Alice Springs became a Solar City in March 2008 the number of solar PV installations has increased from just two, to over 700, with Alice Solar City helping to fund two thirds of the current installed capacity of 4 Megawatts (MW), of which 2.6 MW is on rooftops.”

Also revealed in the study were further opportunities for large-scale electricity savings when looking at the number of solar hot water installations and roof colour.

There are over 4,700 existing solar hot water systems on household roofs, meaning around 55% of dwellings are using the sun for their hot water needs.

“Properly maintained and operated, these have the potential to save households a combined $3M per annum, and 7,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to using electric hot water systems.”

“Installing solar or heat pump hot water systems on the remaining dwellings would save an additional $2.4M per annum and 5,900 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, a saving of 4% of our total annual consumption.”

The study also looked at the number of white roofs in Alice Springs. A white roof reflects more of the sun’s energy, reducing inside temperatures and so reducing the need to run airconditioners as much.

 “We found that white roofs make up 21% of all residential roofs, however there are just as many dark roofs so there is still plenty of opportunity. Further, only 8% of commercial properties have a white roof. Given the high air conditioning loads during the day and limited use of roof insulation in the commercial sector, white roofs for businesses represents a great opportunity for straight forward energy savings.”

If the remaining houses and businesses had their roofs painted white, we would conservatively save a further $0.6M and 1,400 tonnes of emissions per annum.

Households and businesses can still contact Alice Solar City or visit the website for free advice and information on how they can go solar and on other energy efficiency measures.

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