$45 million renewable energy project announced for King Island

From The Mercury Newspaper:

Green power tested on island

Just two years from now, King Island residents could be driving in electric cars powered by wind energy.

That is the vision of Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett and Greens leader and Alternative Energy Minister Nick McKim, who launched a $45 million renewable energy project on King Island yesterday.

The $30 million election promise from the Tasmanian Government, aided by $15 million from the Commonwealth, aims for renewable sources covering two thirds of the island’s energy needs by late next year, reducing the reliance on diesel generators.

The experiment will also provide Hydro Tasmania with experience that may be used in other isolated small communities around the world without access to mainstream grid power.

By mid-2011, construction will begin on adding two new wind turbines to the five already on Huxley Hill near the island’s main town of Currie.

New solar banks will be built and new technology introduced to ensure the power grid can cope with exceptionally windy days.

Every home and business on King Island, including its two dominant industries, the abattoir and the cheese factory, will have smart-grid technology that offers information and choices about best and cheapest times to use electricity.

Hydro Tasmania has also formed a joint venture with technology company CBD Energy to test a new method of long-term storage of electricity.

In the ministers’ vision, on some days when the sun is shining and wind blowing, 100 per cent of King Island’s power will be produced from renewable sources, eliminating the need to use diesel generators.

There are also trials planned for harnessing wave and tidal power on King Island and converting the generators to use biodiesel from farm crops.

Mr McKim sees the island of 1600 residents as the ideal laboratory, where renewable energy ideas and technology can be commercially tested on a small scale.

“You’ve only got to fly over King Island and see the waves crashing on its shores, the big tides and strong winds to see why King Island is such an ideal place for this investment,” Mr McKim said.

“As governments around the world grapple with supplying reliable electricity into remote communities at low cost and with low emissions, I believe we can solve some of these problems right here.”

This week Mr McKim also met electric car manufacturer Better Place, headed by former Victorian Labor politician and internet millionaire Evan Thornley.

While King Island as a trial location for electric cars was not specifically discussed, Mr McKim believes its flat contours and short distances the island is just 50 kilometres long make it ideal.

Mr McKim said more renewable energy on King Island also reinforced the island’s brand and reputation as a producer of fine foods, adding to it the boast of minimal greenhouse gas emissions.

“This project will secure King Island’s reputation as a clean and green fine food producer, attract further investment and lower the cost of living through reduced power prices,” Mr McKim said.

He said the project would lead to new employment options for the island.

Hydro Tasmania chairman David Crean said new technology would allow wind, solar and biofuel energy production to be integrated to make the best use of renewable energy.

“It’s about changing electricity use, about smart grids and technology giving more information and signals to the cheese factory or people in their homes about when is the best time to turn on their hot water system or power up the batteries on their electric cars,” Mr Crean said.

From The Mercury. Journalist Sue Neales
December 09, 2010

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