This week, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) announced a $300m expansion plan for Northern Territory Airports that should include a number of solar farms.

NAIF will be providing its largest funding to date, offering $150m. Northern Territory Airports will meet the other half of the funding.

Three airports will see the benefits of these plans. Darwin International Airport (DIA) is in line for a new cold storage and export hub to make the most of Darwin’s potential to become a greater trading region, factoring in the trade of mangoes and melons.

Alice Springs Airport will see a resurfacing program as well as an upgrade to its lighting systems. Both airports, alongside Tennant Creek Airport, will also become beneficiaries of new solar farms as part of the funding.

DIA will also receive a multi-user battery, which will enable greater storage of energy from the solar farms and will be based nearly 80km away from the airport itself.

Laurie Walker, CEO of NAIF, spoke of the benefits that the plans offer to the whole of the Northern Territory. They will allow for greater investment in renewable energy and make the most of a climate well-suited to the technology. This should also allow the airports to negate the heavy carbon emissions in the local area caused by so many planes landing.

Walker also said that there will be as many as 1,000 construction jobs created through the process, with 500 to 650 jobs also needed for supply chain and new permanent roles.

Australia’s Minister for Northern Australia and Resources, Matthew Canavan, said that this plan for development could “unlock these kinds of economic game-changing opportunities in infrastructure for businesses across Northern Australia.”

The news comes on the back of a report from the federal Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), which said that there was serious scope for turning Northern Australia into a “food bowl” and that expansion was necessary to facilitate the scope of exports on the table.

Ian Kew, CEO of the Airport Development Group, said that “this investment will grow our reputation” as he hailed the potential for bringing in “bigger planes to carry more tourists.” He added that this would enable the export of “more of our region’s iconic products, such as mud crabs, barramundi, mangoes and melons, to the world.”

The introduction of new cold storage facilities as well as the airport expansions would benefit DIA and the Darwin region by keeping money in the local economy so that exports do not have to ship from Queensland or elsewhere.

Kew said that a new vapor heat treatment (VHT) plant and cold storage would mean that all exports could come out of Darwin on freight rather than leaving from out of state.

He also discussed the solar farm potential as DIA looks to expand its existing 6MW capacity to 40MW, which would hopefully be enough to export power into the grid and profit off the excess once the airport receives power.

DIA also wants to replace some of the peaker fleet with solar and large-scale battery storage facilities, all of which should help the Northern Territory meet its target of using 50% renewable energy by 2030.