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

Former gallery advisor scathing about its planners
What’s the betting that old sign is going to do a rapid vanishing act?
Perhaps I should nominate it for heritage listing, pronto!

1 Territory too fixed on opposition to fracking: Lambley
@ John Bell (Posted December 3, 2018 at 2:49 pm): I don’t agree with you this time, John.
Here’s part of a comment I’ve made on another media website: “A lot of food for thought from this post. My earliest recollections of politics dates from the dying days of the McMahon Government which, ironically perhaps, was a time of great progress and optimism in the Northern Territory. It capped a time of extraordinary economic and population growth in the NT from the late 1960s onwards (when McMahon was the federal Treasurer), notwithstanding the contemporary mythology now of several decades standing (justifying NT Self-government) that this was the “bad old days” of Commonwealth control and mismanagement”.
@ Edan Baxter (Posted December 3, 2018 at 11:05 am): I have a quote for you, too: “As you say, the agreement made on 7 December 1907 between the Commonwealth and South Australia for the surrender of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth is still in force” (Letter from NT Attorney-General, Daryl W. Manzie, 26 May, 1992). This still remains the case.
Incidentally, it was this letter from Daryl Manzie that first triggered my interest in Territory history; and what I realised after some time back then is that all is not well with the legal basis of self-government of the NT.
Hence my allusion to section 44 of the Australian Constitution and pointing out the Statute of Limitations does not apply to constitutional law in a recent comment:

Happy Birthday, Auntie, and good luck for the next 70.
The ABC ranks along with the CSIRO as the two great Commonwealth institutions of Australia, both of which have made immense contributions and are amongst our nation’s most important assets.
These two organisations set bench marks against which all else in their respective fields are compared.
It is good to know that at least one of these organisations continues to flourish in Alice Springs.

1 Territory too fixed on opposition to fracking: Lambley
@ John Bell (Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:13 pm): Entirely agree with you, John, except for your final sentence. It’s an old line that the NT’s “exceptional” circumstances of population and geography justify self-government.
After 40 years there is more than abundant evidence demonstrating that the criticisms you direct at the ACT apply equally well to the NT.

1 Territory too fixed on opposition to fracking: Lambley
@ John Bell (Posted December 1, 2018 at 8:21 am): It’s worth recalling that the ACT had a referendum on the question of self-government in 1978 but almost two-thirds of the electors voted against it, preferring instead to maintain the arrangement of a House of Assembly which was simply an advisory body to the Department of the Capital Territory.
Notwithstanding that result, a decade later the ACT got self-government irrespective of whether anyone agreeed to it or not.
@ Psuedo Guru (Posted November 30, 2018 at 8:09 am): Your comment may be much closer to the mark than anyone realises.

Be Sociable, Share!