The 1 megawatt (MW) solar power station was built in Alice Springs in early 2011, and is an integral part of the Alice Solar City project, which began in 2005.
The Uterne Solar Power Plant, developed and installed by SunPower Corporation Australia, is built on four hectares on the outskirts of Alice Springs and consists of more than 3,000 high-efficiency SunPower mono-crystalline panels or flat plate solar panels. The project was completed in less than seven weeks.
The 1 MW system is projected to produce 2,300 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity per year, the equivalent of powering 288 average Alice Springs’ households per year.Article continues below…
The plant is appropriately named Uterne after an indigenous word meaning “bright, sunny day.”
Uterne features more than 3,000 high-efficiency SunPower solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which generate up to 50 per cent more electricity than conventional solar panels.
Installed on SunPower’s proprietary single-axis T20 Tracker system, the solar panels are positioned to follow the sun during the day, increasing daily energy production by up to an additional 30 per cent over conventional fixed-tilt systems.
Under the first utility-backed solar power purchase agreement in Australia, electricity generated will be sold to Power and Water Corporation at a guaranteed price for the next 20 years.
As part of the Alice Solar City program, the Federal Government contributed $3.3 million to the $6.6 million Uterne project.
Uterne – advancing solar in the Outback
“SunPower is delighted to have constructed Australia’s largest producer of solar energy,” said Bob Blakiston, Managing Director, SunPower Corporation.
“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.”
"We are proud to be among the first in Australia to use this technology on this scale and to make the benefits of solar power available to all residents in Alice Springs," said Andrew Macrides, Managing Director, Power and Water Corporation Northern Territory.
“Power and Water Corporation is committed to increasing its environmental sustainability in line with community expectations and global scientific concern,” Macrides continued.
“Uterne is an example of this goal and the Corporation intends to continue its efforts with the advancement of more solar power stations in remote communities, as well as renewable technologies including tidal, biofuels, wind and solar thermal.”
Alice Springs: A solar city
Alice Springs is one of seven cities participating in the Government’s $94 million Solar Cities initiative.
Key projects of the Alice Solar City program include a 500 rooftop PV system; a 235 kW PV system at Alice Springs Airport; and a 305 kW PV system at Crowne Plaza Alice Springs, also completed by SunPower.
Each city is trialing a combination of technologies including solar hot water and photovoltaic technology, energy efficiency, load management, smart meters and cost-reflective pricing in large-scale grid-connected urban sites. Data collected from each of the cities will demonstrate how different projects can reduce energy consumption and will inform future policies.
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Alice Springs averages 9.6 hours of sun per day and only 63 cloudy days per year, perfectly complementing the aspirations of the Alice Solar Cities program.