We believe it makes energy sense to develop the use of renewable sources of energy to help lessen our impact on the environment by: reducing greenhouse gas emissions; our reliance on imported diesel; and harmful pollutants from diesel combustion. We are working with communities throughout regional Queensland to develop exciting projects like these.
Ergon Energy's geothermal power station is one of the few low-temperature geothermal power stations in the world and is located in Birdsville, about 1,600km west of Brisbane, on the edge of the Simpson Desert. The power station is not connected to the national electricity grid and forms a mini grid on its own.
The energy comes from the near-boiling water taken from the Great Artesian Basin at a depth of 1,280 metres. This hot bore water provides a 'free' energy resource which would otherwise be wasted when water is cooled before use.
Geothermal power provides approximately 30% of the annual electricity needs of Birdsville. Operating the geothermal power station:
- Reduces diesel consumption by about 130,000 litres per year1
- Saves about 375 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year1.
A major advantage of geothermal power stations over other renewable sources is that power output can be maintained continuously over an extended period of time, providing maximum energy production and fuel savings for each kilowatt of generating capacity.
In 2000/2001 modifications to the plant were undertaken with financial assistance provided by the Queensland Government through the Queensland Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund. Additional major modifications were done in 2004/2005 to meet Australian safety and other standards.
Download the Birdsville Geothermal Power Station brochure (PDF 1.2 mb) for more information.
Harnessing the power of the Sun
Ergon Energy is trialling an innovative solar energy project near the town of Windorah in western Queensland to reduce reliance on diesel power generation.
This will save up to 300 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions1 by reducing the consumption of diesel by up to 100,000 litres per year1.
The overall aim of the solar energy trial is to find a viable alternative to diesel generation for communities not connected to the national electricity grid.
The completed $4.6 million facility comprises of five solar concentrator dishes, each 14 metres in diameter.
Like giant sunflowers, the dishes face and follow the sun so that as much sunlight as possible falls on to the mirrors. They face the exact location of sunrise and begin to produce electricity from first light. At the end of the day, the dishes track back around to the east, ready for the next day's operation.
The mirrors concentrate the sunlight onto a solar panel (made up of high-efficiency, satellite-quality, photovoltaic cells) which convert the sun's energy into electricity and feed it into the town's electricity network.
Download the Windorah Solar Farm brochure (PDF 788.6 kb) for more information.
Wind at work on Thursday Island
Thursday Island is part of the Torres Strait group of islands and is not connected to the national electricity grid. This means the island's 4,000 residents rely on electricity from diesel generators.
Ergon Energy has built a $2.5 million wind generation plant as part of our commitment to using renewable energy sources wherever it is economically and environmentally possible.
The plant provides around 5% to 10%1 of the island's electricity needs and saves approximately 300,000 to 600,0001; litres of diesel and a resulting 870 to 1,7001; tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.
Thursday Island's wind generation plant consists of two 30 metre tubular steel towers, each topped by a three-bladed turbine with a rotor diameter of 29 metres.
Each turbine generates up to 225 kilowatts of electricity with a combined annual output of up to 1.22 gigawatt hours depending on weather conditions.
The turbines' output is passed through a transformer and fed into the existing power station system. The turbines operate in parallel with the diesel generation plant but are relatively quiet in operation. At just 150 metres away, noise levels are not much more than the average domestic refrigerator and about half that of a petrol lawnmower.
Hydrogen fuel cells
Ergon Energy undertook an innovative project to test whether a small hydrogen fuel cell could successfully interact with the main electricity network to boost power supply at peak times. We installed a 5kW hydrogen fuel cell system at an Ergon Energy workshop in Cairns and successfully generated power into the network.
The trial explored the technical aspects involved with using fuel cells in a range of stationary energy applications for Ergon Energy, particularly in rural and remote areas.
One of the challenges in a sparsely populated state like Queensland is to supply customers at the end of long rural power lines on the fringes of the network or in isolated communities. Hydrogen fuel cell technology was trialed to see whether it has the potential to be considered as an alternative to traditional energy distribution solutions.
Fuel cells are also being considered as backup power supply systems for Ergon Energy telecommunications installations.
Fuel cells have the benefits of:
- Being available 24 hours per day and not being dependent on climatic factors such as wind and sunshine
- Having higher electrical efficiency than other generation technology
- Producing both electricity and heat
- Being able to use hydrogen produced by renewable energy such as wind and solar requiring minimal maintenance.
1Source: National Greenhouse Accounts (NGA) Factors - January 2008 page 11