• The Daly River Solar site is powered by more than 3000 solar panels. (Elliana Lawford, NITV)Source: Elliana Lawford, NITV
A remote community in the Northern Territory recently did away with fossil fuels and switched to solar power, using the sun to power the whole community of around 500 residents.
Elliana Lawford

13 Sep 2017 - 2:48 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2017 - 4:04 PM

Daly River, also known as Nauiyu, has just become the first Territory community to be powered entirely by solar during daylight hours.

So why did they make the switch?

Nauiyu elders explained the community was looking at new and innovative ways to continue to care for the land in an ever-evolving society.

“The sun is the giver of life, it's a part of our Aboriginal culture that it's the giver of life, we always look to the sun,” Local man Mark Cassey said.

“Now the sun will come down, shine on [the solar panels], power our houses, and take care of the everyday aspects of life.

“It’s there all the time, it doesn’t matter where you go. It’s looking after us that way.”

Due for completion this month, the $6.2 million Daly River solar site incorporates a lithium-ion battery, charged by more than 3000 solar panels.

This will enable the community's diesel engines to be turned off during the day, which will save 400,000 litres of fuel every year.

“It's going traditionally, we've always been people that look after nature and now its amazing with having solar it's in that mindset of ours in a traditional sense its also going to help nature in the long run,” Nauiyu elder Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr said.

The community also wanted to move away from diesel to eliminate the traffic of diesel trucks on remote roads.

“You know just in case we have crashes and stuff, it just saves a lot of people's lives and explosions and stuff along the road so it's just a good idea,” Nauiyu resident Jayd Salzgeber said.

“I think using the sun for power is the best thing cause you know cause the sun is 24/7, and it saves chemicals and stuff getting used in the air so solar is just the way to go.”

Nauiyu is around 220 kilometres south of Darwin and it's the first community to hit the Northern Territory government's 50 per cent renewable energy target.

Their solar site is also the first to incorporate a lithium-ion battery.

The NT government has commended Nauiyu's efforts, and says other communities will soon follow suit.

“Nauiyu are at the forefront of testing new technology and innovation, about how you integrate the traditional diesel fired power plants into the bush into the new solar energy and into the new production of renewable energy so Nauiyu will certainly be learning lessons for the rest of the nation,” NT Essential Services Minister, Gerry McCarthy, said.

“And we're looking forward to being able to partner into the future to deliver more renewable technologies to produce energies for our regional and remote centres.”

The $55 million solar and battery storage project is jointly funded by the Territory and Federal governments and will eventually deliver 10 megawatts of solar energy across 28 remote communities.

So far, more than 10,500 solar panels have been installed, providing power to more than 570 homes across 10 communities and creating a number of local jobs.

The Nauiyu community said the creation of local jobs was another reason they made the switch.

“There were people from the community who've taken part in helping to set it all up and they were overwhelmed I mean especially if you're in a remote place it's hard getting work for people in communities such as this but there is always opportunities coming up now and then and this one was a great one for our mob,” Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr said.

Marindja Piening Aboriginal Contracting was one of the companies that worked on the project.

“Our role here was to come in and clear the land, and basically create the pad, so we drove water trucks, dump trucks, rollers, just to make it flat and get ready for the other infrastructure to be put on top,” David McDowall said.

“They employ us, train us up, they up skill us and get us our certificates, so if we ever do leave the job we walk away with something and it’s really great working for our own people.”

And there are ongoing jobs too.

“There are opportunities ongoing of course with the Power and Water Corporation for essential services officers and maintaining assets in the bush,” Minister McCarthy said.

The Daly River community are wholly investing in solar, and have even decided to teach renewable energy classes at their school.

“Their future is here, and so they've got to grow up with it and they're going to know when they grow up,” Mark Cassey explained.

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