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

Council shoots Anzac precinct gallery down in flames
The Treasurer, Nicole Manison, has just released a “STATEMENT” declaring: “The Northern Territory is still $500 million out of pocket every year despite the Federal Government’s proposed new legislation on GST distribution.
“This legislation protects us from future cuts, but does nothing to restore the $500 million less GST revenue we have lost from Canberra.
“That’s $500 million less for police, teachers and nurses – and this continues to hurt us.”
Well, if the NT’s economic circumstances are now so dire, with so much less money available for essential services, does the NT Government have the $50 million to spare (let alone any extra funding) to spend on a National Aboriginal Art Gallery for which there is no actual plan and no substance to the claims made for its supposed economic benefit?
Notwithstanding its massive majority in the NT Legislative Assembly, this is a government that appears to be floundering with no real idea of what to do.
I think we’re in a lot more trouble than most of us realise.


Anzac Oval: hand it over, says NT Government
@ Hal Duell (Posted October 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm):My personal opinion is that I think you’re on the money with your suggestion about the NT Government’s motives, Hal.


Rain: Yesss!
@ Charlie Carter (Posted October 12, 2018 at 7:44 am): You’re correct, Charlie, except the Indian Ocean dipole is positive and the major driver of the current drought conditions across much of Australia.
So now we’re about to cop it from both directions – a “perfect storm,” oddly enough.


Govt spokesman hits out at Opposition over floor price
There’s a strong element of history repeating here, or at least there’s a major risk of it happening again.
A previous scheme to deal with the rampant abuse of alcohol was attempted by the NT Government, under then CLP Chief Minister (and Member for Fannie Bay) Marshall Perron, with the introduction in 1991 of the 10-year Living With Alcohol program.
The scheme was financed with an excise on the price of full-strength beers, wines and spirits.
It was at this time that light and mid-strength beers were widely introduced for sale as a measure to reduce overall alcohol consumption levels in the NT. In 1992 the Alcohol Policy Unit of the Department of Chief Minister found that average weekly consumption of alcohol in the NT was “about 50% greater than the national average and at least 40% higher than any other state or territory” (Alcohol Fact Sheet, NTG, May 19, 1993).
The Living With Alcohol program was generally regarded as having a positive impact; although in the mid 1990s there was (yet again) a crisis in Alice Springs over alcohol abuse and attendant crime and anti-social behaviour.
This was the time when the Peoples Alcohol Action Coalition (later Group) was established by concerned local residents in response to this crisis.
The Living With Alcohol program fell victim to a High Court case decided in August 1997 (Ha v New South Wales), when – in a narrow result – the High Court ruled that such excises are a tax on sale, production and manufacture of goods prior to consumption, contrary to Section 90 of the Australian Constitution.
This prompted the Howard Government to introduce the GST to compensate for the loss of revenue to the states and territories resulting from the High Court’s decision.
Now here we go again? God help us!


Rain: Yesss!
Meanwhile the Bureau of Meteorology this afternoon raised the chance of an El Nino this summer from “watch” to “alert,” with a 70% likelihood of it now occurring.
The rain that some of us received today was delightful but came from an isolated storm. We are in classic drought territory.


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