From July 1997 to March 1998 I lived at a …

Comment on $75m power station the wrong decision: WA experts by Alex Nelson.

From July 1997 to March 1998 I lived at a house that operated solely on solar energy stored in a battery system with no connection to the power grid or diesel generator backup.
The solar power system was part of an overall package of alternative technologies incorporated within the house design ostensibly intended to demonstrate options for housing on remote communities.
Located 30km west of Alice Springs on the Iwupataka Aboriginal Land Trust, the “Gloria Lee Environmental Learning Centre” received considerable local media publicity in 1997 as a prime example of showing the way ahead for potentially reducing the construction and operating costs of housing on Aboriginal communities.
The technical description of the entire project was detailed in a submission to the national Ecologically Sustainable Building and Architecture Awards of 1997 (which it won), and it’s from this document I quote the section describing the “Active Energy Systems”.
Under the heading “Solar Power System” the document outlines: “A minimal system that promotes responsible use of energy; made up of:
• 6 x 120 watt Neste monocrystalline modules [solar panels]
• Trace C40 pwm solar regulator
• 4 x 535/c Solar sun flooded cell batteries
• CSA 2.2kw sinewave inverter.
“The system provides reliable power for: 11 watt PLEC lighting, 4x ceiling fans on timers, iron, chest freezer, radio/tv/video, computer, washing machine, automatic water transfer pump”.
The performance of the system was described: “The array output is between 2.8 and 3.8 kwh per day. Battery storage is approximately 5 kwh of storage at 40% DOD C100.
“No generator back up is required but provision for emergency connection through a changeover outlet is provided.”
In addition there was a hot water system with a “wood-fired boost” described as follows: “The system comprises a Solahart 180J solar hot water system connected to the Nectre combustion stove in the eating area through a water jacket in the firebox.
“The solar panels operate on a closed circuit with heat transfer fluid. The over flow from temperature relief is directed through a shepherds crook back into the main header tank to eliminate waste. No electrical connection exists”.
From my eight months residency at this house I adjudged the solar power system as by far the most successful feature of the entire project, its only drawback being that it was too limited to provide adequate power for regular household use; however, it convincingly demonstrated the enormous potential such independent power systems have for future household use.
Unfortunately there was little else that was successful about this alternative technology demonstration centre.
The costs of the project were listed: “Basic building and systems cost = $120,000. This equates to approximately $475/m2 average under total roof canopy” divided into “enclosed spaces = $675/m2” and “covered spaces $250/m2”.
“This figure excludes the administration and architecture consultancy and the costs associated with the special training programs under which it was built. When considering the cost of the training programs the long term advantages of the social costs and the reduction of unemployment far outweigh the short term outlays.
“For this reason it would be a false assessment to input the overall training costs, much in the same way as training subsidies are generally not included in the real costs of most building project assessments elsewhere.”
This additional funding – never accounted for – was provided by the Federal Department of Employment, Education and Training and the NT Education and Training Authority, with trainees from the Arrernte and Tangentyere councils “funded through a mixture of programs which comprised TAP (Training Aboriginal People), ABSTUDY and CDEP”.
From my personal enquiries in 1998 I learned the overall cost to the taxpayer ranged from $250,000 to $400,000, depending on who was my informant.
This tax-payer funded house, a failure overall as an alternative technology demonstration centre, sits in the middle of a slab of 108 hectares from the Iwupataka Aboriginal Land Trust.
In October 2009 the Aboriginal corporation that owned and oversaw this project was deregistered by the Office of Registration of Indigenous Corporations, which answered the question “Does the corporation own land?” as “Unknown”.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Centre of attention: Glory days of Anzac Oval in the 1950s
@ Peter Bassett (Posted February 19, 2019 at 7:33 pm): Appreciate your comment, especially about the old high school, Peter.
Contrary to what has been reported in the some media, the old school building is a very well constructed building with enormous inherent heritage value.
There has been – and is – a deliberately false and misleading campaign initiated by the NT Government, amplified by vested interests through a complicit and compliant print media, to denigrate the worth and value of that old education complex.

From mud, dust to grass: The beginning of Anzac Oval
@ Dr Ongo (Posted February 14, 2019 at 8:08 pm): You raise an interesting point; however, your observation applies equally well to other listed heritage sites, eg. such places as the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, Alice Springs Heritage Precinct (including Stuart Park, old hospital, old Alice Springs Gaol, and several houses in Hartley and Bath streets), and the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct.
There are histories, stories or law applicable to all of these places since time immemorial but other than to acknowledge previous Aboriginal occupation or use of such sites, I’m not qualified or knowledgeable enough to comment about them.
In regard to “untyeye that once grew there” at the Anzac Oval site (referring to corkwood trees – Hakea divaricata), only one still survives just inside the boundary near the Senior Citizens Club. It’s the same tree on the right of the photo, framing the new school, taken by Prue Crouch’s father in the early 1950s.
The heritage statement for the nomination of Anzac Oval does state: “The Anzac Oval Precinct contains several sacred sites.”
Thanks for your comment.



Home owner bonus: New build sector bleak, says CLP
The situation generally in the Northern Territory is giving every indication that it’s rapidly spiralling out of control.
I suspect the NT Government’s reactions are too little, too late; and this latest scheme will likely end up being home owner bogus rather than bonus.

West Macs fire mitigation critically inadequate: Scientist
Such a shame, Steve, that we’re unable to harness your sprays to put the wildfires out.

Government fails to protect major tourism asset
My recollection is that the major wildfire years in the earliest period of this century were 2002-03, and again in 2011. Both of those periods closely followed years of exceptionally high rainfall (2000-01 and 2010 respectively).
This isn’t unusual in itself – there were significant wildfire years in 1968 (following the breaking of the drought in 1966) and in 1975 (following 1973-4, the wettest period on record in Alice Springs).
What’s different now is that this major wildfire event has occurred after a very dry year, with a record set at Alice Springs in 2018 for the longest period without rain being recorded, although (as I recall) this wasn’t the case further west of town.
In the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel west and east of Alice Springs a number of times and also to fly frequently to Darwin and back with clear views of the area around town.
The clear impression I’ve gained on every trip is the extent and dominance of the spread of buffel grass in the ranges.
It’s like a blanket hugging the ground as far as the eye can see. It’s spread is overwhelming, and the ecology of this region is forever changed.
There are often comments about the need for protecting Alice Springs from major floods but that’s the least of our worries.
It is major wildfire that poses the most serious risk to our town, and the recent disaster in the West Macs demonstrates this risk can occur at any time.

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