Renewable energy

Renewable energy is electricity sourced from solar, wind, biomass (when grown sustainably), hydro and other sources which are not finite resources (that is, they are naturally replenished). When electricity is produced from renewable sources there are no greenhouse gas emissions (though there may be other associated emissions in the design and production of the technologies used in renewable energy production).

Despite Australia’s wealth of sunshine, wind and other renewable sources, only 15% of our electricity comes from renewable energy. In the NT, with the most abundant sunshine of all, we generate less than 3% of our energy from renewable sources.

In the electricity market, energy from renewable sources is referred to as GreenPower, which is the national accreditation scheme for renewable energy.

How does GreenPower affect my energy bills?

GreenPowerLabelNSWGreenPower guarantees that the renewable electricity you buy from energy suppliers meets stringent environmental standards.

If you are purchasing GreenPower from your electricity provider then you are paying a little more per kilowatt hour (kWh), but you are also contributing to less greenhouse gas emissions. You can decide whether you’d like a percentage of your energy use to come from renewable sources, or all of your energy use, however there is no change to the way that you receive power.

On average it will cost about $10-$15 per week extra to buy green power. As of the end of 2013, residents and businesses in the NT can  NO LONGER buy GreenPower through PowerWater Corporation. The alternative, until (if) they create a new GreenPower product, is to purchase carbon offsets from accredited renewable sources, or purchase GreenPower from interstate (see the national GreenPower site for more info).

100% GreenPower is best as it means that all of the power consumed comes from renewable sources. Make sure you go for an accredited GreenPower provider, listed on the national website.

Generating your own electricity

Households can also set up their own renewable energy system. In August 2009, the Government implemented the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme, which is designed to deliver on the Government’s commitment to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply will come from renewable sources by 2020. The scheme is designed to assist households, small business and community groups with installation of eligible renewable energy systems.

For information go to the Climate Change Renewable Target webpage.

Solar Power Generation and Feed-In Tariffs

Solar power is energy which comes from the sun, which is a clean and renewable source of energy. Solar power is very common for households and is one of the most appropriate energy sources for Top End residents because we have a lot of sunlight. The average number of hours of direct sunlight in Darwin is around 6.5 hours in the dry season per day, and 4.5 hours in the wet season per day.

If you’re interested in installing solar panels on your home, read our guide here

Most household solar power systems use photovoltaic (PV) panels. Common materials used in PV panels are monocrystalline silicon or polycrystalline silicon. PV panels convert sunlight into electricity and are arranged into an array. The number of arrays used determines the amount of electricity produced.

Household solar power generation is growing in the Northern Territory. In 2016, roughly 6,230 Darwin homes have solar panels, a big increase from 800 homes in 2011. PV panels are very suitable for use in urban areas as they take up very little space and make no noise. If installed on the room they also act as a shade, thus helping to keep your house cool.

Using electricity that you have produced using PV panels means that you will not need to draw as much electricity from ‘the grid’. The electrical grid is the network for delivering electricity from suppliers (i.e. Jacana Energy in the NT) to consumers. This means cheaper electricity bills for your home.

As well as this, if your solar power system is connected to the electrical grid then you are eligible for the ‘feed-in’ tariff. This is effectively selling the power you don’t use back to PowerWater. You can do this by participating in the Jacana Energy Buy Back Program.

The feed-in tariff value varies, has dropped greatly over the years, and is also subject to change. For instance in 2019:

  • SA – 11 to 16.3c/kWh
  • NSW – 6.9 to 8.4 c/kWh
  • QLD – 6 to 12c/kWh
  • VIC – 9.9 to 29c/kWh
  • ACT – 6 to 12c/kWh
  • WA – Varies*** e.g. 7.1c/kWh (Synergy)
  • TAS – 8.9c/kWh
  • NT – net feed in tariff is the same as the power purchase price, i.e. 27.13c/kWh (the highest in the country)

You can also use the sun to heat your hot water. Check out our fact sheet on using your hot water system more efficiently and our solar hot water special offer.

Wind Power

Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into electricity using wind turbines, windmills, wind pumps or other means. Wind generators or turbines use the wind to turn a propeller that drives a generator. They come in many shapes and sizes. The most common is the ‘horizontal axis’ turbine with blades like an aircraft propeller and a tail or vane to direct it into the wind. Wind generators are more suited to non-urban areas as the turbine needs to be mounted on a tower and makes some noise in operation. Turbines have a range from 300Watt to 20Kw.

Geothermal Power

Geothermal power is energy generated by heat stored in the earth, or the collection of absorbed heat derived from underground in the atmosphere and oceans. In 2007, geothermal power supplied less than 1% of the world’s energy, however this is increasing.

Hot Dry Rock Geothermal Energy (HDR) is a type of geothermal power production that uses the very high temperatures (approx 200°C) that can be found in rocks a few kilometers below ground. Electricity is generated by pumping high pressure water down a borehole (injection well) into the heat zone. The water travels through fractures in the rock, capturing the heat of the rock until it is forced out of a second borehole as very hot water, which is converted into electricity using either a steam turbine or a binary power plant system.

All of the water, now cooler, is injected back into the ground to heat up again in a closed loop.

Hydro Energy

Micro hydro generators convert the mechanical energy of flowing water into electrical energy. With a suitable water supply, micro hydro generators can produce energy more reliably than solar or wind generators. Domestic micro hydros are installed beside existing streams, at sites with a natural spring on a hill, or at artesian bores with suitable pressure. Micro hydro generators can range from 100W to 20kW systems.

Algae Fuel

Algae fuel, also called algal fuel, oilgae, algaeoleum or third generation biofuel, is a biofuel from algae. Compared with second generation biofuels, algae are a high-yield highcost (30 times more energy per acre than terrestrial crops) feedstock for producing biofuels. Since the whole organism converts sunlight into oil, algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two-car garage than an entire football field of soybeans.

Algal fuels do not impact fresh water resources, and can use ocean and wastewater. (Source.)

For more information on the extent and capabilities of biofuels in Australia, see COOLmob’s Biofuels Factsheet