Planning is advanced on a project to replace the existing 85kW net screw expander system at the power station with new plant expected to increase net output to between 150 and 200kW.

The project will challenge Ergon Energy to integrate the new geothermal power station with the existing diesel power station to enable a renewable energy penetration of up to 70% of the total energy generated.

The higher penetration of geothermal energy will displace up to 80 per cent of the 500,000 litres of diesel used annually in Birdsville.

As a result, it is expected to save up to $340,000 a year on diesel fuel, with additional significant savings on engine maintenance, thereby extending the life of the diesel plant and reducing its environmental impact.

The project will challenge conventional thinking by broaching issues relating to stability, technology and control.

The Birdsville Geothermal Power Station uses water from the Artesian Basin; the new approach will adopt modular waste heat recovery equipment used in a number of geothermal and heat recovery plants around the world.

An estimated 20 personnel are expected to live and work in Birdsville during construction, realising an economic benefit to the township which has a regular population of about 120, which swells to about 7000 for the annual races.

This project will ultimately provide Ergon Energy with the knowledge and understanding of key issues associated with geothermal technical solutions for further possible application in isolated communities.

Ergon, which owns and operates 33 isolated power stations which supply 38 off-grid communities, aims to eliminate diesel generation in isolated systems by 2050, through energy conservation, increased renewable generation and energy efficiency activities.

Ergon Energy already uses solar and wind generation in some other isolated communities as part of its progressive deployment of renewable energy.

Artesian bore

The Birdsville Geothermal Power Station uses water from the Great Artesian Basin.