By Isabella Kaminski
According to SunPower, the Uterne project is Australia's largest solar tracking power plant and is supported by the country's first utility-backed solar power purchase agreement.
Uterne, which is based in Alice Springs, is powered by over 3,000 SunPower solar photovoltaic panels. The panels are installed on SunPower's single-axis T20 Tracker system and are positioned to follow the sun during the day. According to SunPower, this increases daily energy production by up to 30% more than conventional fixed-tilt installations.
Under the utility-backed solar power purchase agreement, electricity generated by Uterne will be sold to Power and Water Corporation at a guaranteed price for the next 20 years.
Bob Blakiston, Managing Director of SunPower, says: "Uterne demonstrates that – just like any other fuel production plant – solar generation can be supported by a long-term power purchase agreement, setting a positive precedent for the development of similar projects in this country.
As part of the Alice Solar City programme, the Australian Government has contributed AUD$3.3 million (£2.2m) to the AUD$6.6m (£4.5m) Uterne project.
Alice Springs is one of 7 cities participating in the Australian Government's AUD$94m (£64m) Solar Cities initiative. Each city is trialling a combination of technologies including solar hot water and solar photovoltaic technology, energy efficiency, load management, smart meters and cost-reflective pricing in large-scale grid-connected urban sites.
Professor Ray Wills, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Association of Australia (SEA), says: “Greater reliance on renewable sources for electricity generation should reduce inflationary effects of energy over the coming decades, and Power and Water Corp contract is good news for residents.
“Generation plants like Uterne are scalable and growth in electricity demand can be met by simple commercial decisions to increase the size of the solar farm to deliver more electricity from sunshine to the residents of Alice Springs.”