Darwin has declared a Northern Territory climate emergency. Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis is calling on both the Territory and federal governments to take immediate action to address the escalating crisis.
Which is all well and good. If only the city — one of the nation’s most sun-drenched — had more installed solar panels than cloudy Hobart, thousands of kilometres to the south.
According to Australian PV Institute data, Hobart has an impressive 3.5 MW of household and commercial solar power installed. This compares to Darwin’s approximate 1.5 MW of mixed commercial and home solar panel systems.
“We need to act now and respond collectively to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions through our actions and policies,” Vatskalis said.
Lord Mayor omits NT Renewable Roadmap in call to action
However, the NT still relies heavily on gas peaking plants and diesel generation for electricity supply. Take the ‘Roadmap to Renewables’ report, released two years ago.
The roadmap laid the groundwork for achieving 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. One of its key objectives was to lower C02 emissions in the Territory.
However, apart from a few million in energy efficiency measures and $1,000 vouchers for households to install solar power and battery systems, it’s a slow-moving train.
Poor solar uptake: Northern Territory climate emergency
Indeed, the report found just 4 per cent of the NT’s generational capacity came from renewable sources. To reach its target, the Territory needs another 450 MW of additional capacity.
The government hasn’t been completely idle, though. It has delivered Australia’s largest roll out of solar to remote communities in the SETuP project. In addition, it reviewed feed-in tariff arrangements to encourage uptake of behind-the-meter battery storage; i.e. home batteries.
And the approval of a 25 MW solar PV plant near Katherine is another step in the road towards the 50 per cent renewables goal.
Massive solar farm could end Darwin’s climate woes
As Vatskalis laments climate inaction, his city will begin exporting gigawatt-levels of solar to Singapore in the next decade.
The NT Government has approved construction of the world’s largest solar farm, near Tennant Creek. The $20bn SunCable project, a massive 10 GW desert solar array facility, could supply one-fifth of Singapore’s power needs via a 3,800 km undersea cable.
The solar plant will take up 15,000 hectares of desert when it starts production in the mid-2020s.
Conversely, the renewable generation required to meet the Territory’s 2030 target would require just 700 hectares of land.
The Northern Territory climate emergency is exacerbated by December and January being the wet season there. This means lots of cloud cover that diminishes the available sunshine for electricity generation. During what is the peak period for solar for the rest of the country. And this when demand is at its highest, with the need for air conditioning in the hot humid conditions.