Creating power and drinking water with lower costs and emissions

Hydro Tasmania’s world-leading renewable energy innovation will help reduce the amount of diesel fuel needed to generate power and produce clean drinking water at one of Western Australia’s tourism jewels.

The Rottnest Island Water and Renewable Energy Nexus Project (WREN) will deliver both electricity and drinking water for Rottnest Island at lower cost, and with lower emissions, through innovative use of renewable energy and smart controls.

“Like many remote or island locations, Rottnest Island is currently heavily reliant on expensive diesel fuel to supply its electricity needs,” said Simon Gamble, Hydro Tasmania’s Manager Hybrid Off-Grid Solutions.

“A novel aspect of this project is its focus on controlling the timing of an energy-intensive activity - running the island’s desalination plant - to make the best use of renewable energy when it is most abundant.

“Sophisticated smart controls will automate the desalination plant to operate at maximum capacity when wind and solar energy are most abundant, and store treated water for use at times of lower renewable energy availability. Running the plant on renewables rather than diesel will reduce the cost and emissions intensity of producing the island’s drinking water.”

Rottnest Island is a leading recreation and holiday destination 18 kilometres off the south-west Western Australian coast. It welcomes around half a million visitors each year, attracted to its beautiful scenery, beaches and bays, its biodiversity, and its emphasis on conservation and sustainability.

Until now, Rottnest Island’s current annual power consumption of 5 GWh has been provided by five conventional diesel engines, two low-load diesel engines and a single 600 kW wind turbine, installed in 2004.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide up to $4.8 million in funding towards the $7.3 million project.

“The high cost of shipped-in diesel presented a compelling case for island communities to make the switch to renewable energy,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

“Hydro Tasmania, with support from ARENA, has spent several years developing its off-grid energy solutions that combine renewable and enabling technologies with existing diesel generation to provide reliable power.

“Six hundred kilowatts of new solar photovoltaic (PV) will be integrated with the existing 600 kW wind turbine and diesel generators on Rottnest Island by adopting advanced control systems.

“Integrating Hydro Tasmania’s innovative control systems with the Rottnest Island desalination plant and water storage facility will allow the plant and pumps to be switched on when renewable generation outstrips demand on the island. This innovative approach could be replicated in other remote off-grid communities that rely on desalinated water,” Mr Frischknecht said.

The project is part of an energy road map for Rottnest Island involving cost-effective options to reduce diesel consumption while still maintaining a reliable power supply that would meet the island’s current and future needs.

“Diesel fuel is expensive and subject to global pressures on price and availability. Also, as a fossil fuel, diesel emits greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change,” said CEO of the Rottnest Island Authority, Paolo Amaranti.

“Reducing the amount of diesel used on Rottnest Island makes sense not only from an economic perspective, but also as part of the island’s long-term focus on sustainability.”

The WREN project will integrate education about power and water sustainability into the Rottnest Island visitor experience, by developing digital educational materials that will allow real-time interaction with the cutting-edge power/water system, and can be delivered via apps and within a new energy educational technology centre.

The project will also trial energy efficiency technologies to reduce overall power and water use on the island. Combined with smart demand-management of the desalination plant, it’s expected the advanced hybrid power system will achieve 45% renewable energy penetration.

The WREN project holds exciting global potential, as similar power and water challenges confront many remote and island locations around the world.

“Rottnest Island offers an excellent demonstration site for an innovative technology that will have broad international application and offer global economic and environmental benefits,” said Simon Gamble.

“Island communities in particular will watch its progress with interest, given the widespread current use of diesel to manage water treatment and desalination.”

The project will be completed by May 2017.

Released by Samantha Meyer, 03 6230 5746

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