Australian island rigs up solar powered desalination

Rottnest Island, off the Western Australian coast, is constructing a solar power source for the island’s population including its desalination plant.

The A$ 7.3 million (US$ 5.3 million) project combines photovoltaics with a sophisticated control system to optimise the use of the renewable resource in running the desalination facility. It will displace diesel-powered generators running on imported fuel according to a report in Cogeneration magazine.

Hydro Tasmania’s manager, hybrid off-grid solutions, told Cogeneration: “A novel aspect of this project is its focus on controlling the timing of an energy-intensive activity – running the island’s desalination plant – to make the best use of renewable energy when it is most abundant. Running the plant on renewables rather than diesel will reduce the cost and emissions intensity of producing the island’s drinking water.”

Seven diesel gensets and a 600 kW wind turbine installed in 2004 have met the island’s 5 GWh annual power demand to date. The Rottnest Island Water and Renewable Energy Nexus Project (WREN) will add 600 kW of solar power and an advanced control system designed to maximize use of renewable energy for desalination according to Cogeneration.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will provide up to A$ 4.8 million (US$ 3.5 million) in funding towards the project which is scheduled for completion by May 2017.