DARWIN, AAP – The Northern Territory is another step closer to switching on solar power for remote Indigenous communities.
Solar panel arrays and batteries are set to replace diesel generators in 72 communities across the Top End.
“That’s cheap, green stable power and jobs for locals,” chief minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Monday.
“These people live a long way away and they deserve the best power possible that’s also good for the environment.”
Trucks currently transport the diesel to the communities, releasing emissions along the way and chewing up the gravel roads, often making them impassable for locals.
“Diesel has a massive impact,” Mr Gunner said.
The project is also expected to bring jobs to communities in areas such as site maintenance.
“Locals will be loving this,” he said.
The NT government on Monday announced it will spend $2 million over the next two years securing land access near communities, assessing future power demand, and surveying transmission lines and other infrastructure already on-site.
“This is the preparatory work so that’s about talking to the land councils and other relevant parties,” Mr Gunner said.
Energy companies are expected to invest about $400 million in the Territory to roll out and run the solar systems.
The project is expected to be completed by 2030.
A pilot site has been set up at Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island, which is the largest community on the Tiwi Islands with approximately 2000 people.
The NT government is aiming to deliver 50 per cent of the Territory’s power using renewables by the end of the decade.
Once converted from diesel to solar, the communities will contribute five per cent towards the target.