Presently, many off-grid power supplies are dependent on diesel based generation. Thus the price of diesel fuel is an important driver for the uptake of renewable energy. When the price of diesel fuel peaked at around $1.80 per litre during 2008, there was an increased interest in the uptake of renewable energy for off-grid power supply. However, the suppression of diesel prices following the global financial crisis has temporarily reduced this urgency. Predictions that diesel fuel prices are currently at the low end of the scale and will only get higher suggest that it is only a matter of time before renewable energy is the preferred source of power supply as their costs plateau or decrease while the cost of diesel increases.
Presently solar power or wind power are the chosen forms of power supply based on their ability to be installed virtually anywhere. In particular, based on the available resources, solar power appears to be the preferred choice for northern parts of Australia and wind power is the preferred choice for southern parts of Australia. However, the preferred power source should be based on an assessment of the best outcome of the project based on the projects drivers.
Other mature renewable energy grid connected power supply options of hydro power and geothermal power have been rarely used in off-grid scenarios in Australia due to the absence of site specific conditions that they require. Thus it is unlikely that they will be suitable for future projects, although they should not be precluded from preliminary assessments. Other forms of renewable energy supply (such as wave or tidal power) are still in their infancy and are also site dependent and thus unlikely to be suitable in the near future.
Improving Off-Grid Renewable Energy Opportunities
The CEC commissioned on 'Improving Off-Grid Renewable Energy Opportunities' conducted by Hydro Tasmania Consulting (July 2010).
This paper discusses off-grid renewable energy opportunities in Australia, and in particular the following aspects of renewable energy in off-grid scenarios:
- Review and description of the available technology for renewable energy off-grid power generation
- High level mapping of the available renewable energy resource overlaid with potential off-grid customers
- Estimates of diesel based generation unit costs, grid connection costs and renewable energy generation unit costs
- Discussion of project evaluation for off-grid renewable energy projects, inputs required to undertake an evaluation and discussion of potential contract models for implementation
- Discussion of the integration of renewable energy into hybrid systems, including energy storage and enabling technologies
- Details of three case studies of off-grid projects using renewable energy within Australia
- Identification of potential action that the Federal Government could implement to assist or improve the uptake of off-grid renewable energy.
To download the report click here.