Laynhapuy Homelands, East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

WINNER: Marcus Edwards for Laynhapuy Homelands

If you want to see a community prosper, supply it with reliable energy. It’s worked for mankind around the world, but in far-flung reaches it is still a struggle to get connected. That’s why Marcus Edwards says affordable solar is the answer for remote Aboriginal communities. His 2.5kW installation for a community in North-East Arnhem Land “puts responsibility, freedom and control in the hands of the tenant”, Edwards says, and is a tool to teach power management.

Edwards runs Eds Marine Electrical but completed the job working for Laynhapuy Home Lands Aboriginal Corporation, which is responsible for power and water througstandalone-2_smallhout the homelands of north east Arnhem Land, made up of 33 communities and more than 160 houses. “We cart diesel and maintain generator sets as far as 350km from base,” he says.

The availability of power in some remote communities allows for power usage at night only, so refrigeration is not an option. The solution is cheap reliable solar that can provide power all day, while not taking the responsibility of power management off the tenants.

To keep costs down, the installer used a DC-coupled system which requires only one MPPT charge controller. The system is enclosed in a lockable cabinet so most of the work can be carried out offsite and then driven to location and installed. The battery bank can hold two days’ autonomy, so if abused (in the learning process) the system can still recover on a daily basis.

“There is no need for the expense of more autonomy as our weather patterns here are wet or dry, so for eight months of the year it’s all sunny and in the rare times of extended cloudy periods (cyclones) fuel can be delivered as necessary,” Edwards says.

“I believe the main advantages of the solar systems is the ability to run refrigeration, decreased costs associated with diesel delivery and generator servicing, decreased noise pollution and multiple health benefits associated with reliable power,” he says.

“Keeping the cost down was essential so that we could supply more houses with our limited funding. I also needed to keep the system simple and easy to maintain due to the remoteness of the communities and that maintenance will not always be carried out by a solar endorsed electrician.

“The result is a system that is inexpensive, easier to maintain and doesn’t needs PLCs, timers, etc, so the responsibility and control is left in the hands of the occupants working as a training tool — if abused it will switch off for a short period while your neighbour’s power is still on.”

PROJECT DETAILS

Project name: Laynhapuy Homelands Stand Alone Stage 1

Location: East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Owner: Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation

Developer/contractor: Marcus Edwards at Laynhapuy Homelands

Capacity: 2.5kW

Expected payback period: 2-3 years

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID:

At first glance this project in the Rurrangala Community in Arnhem Land seems unassuming, and one may question why such a simple and apparently humble entry would be worthy of winning — but that is precisely where its stand-out strengths lie. The solution, from EDS Marine Electrical, is reliable, robust and has a maintenance schedule which is appropriate to the task. Its economy makes it easily repeatable in other communities in remote parts of Australia and in developing countries.

Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics chief operating officer Dr Richard Corkish and Envirotecture director Dick Clarke.