Self sufficiency for Aborigines

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An Australian aboriginal community has embraced wind technology with the commissioning of the Swan Valley Project in the state of Western Australia. Two locally made 10 kW Westwind turbines will generate electricity for a community of up to 140 people living on the outskirts of the state capital, Perth. The stand alone power system also includes about 1 kW of Solarex solar cells. The River People of Perth -- the Nyungah people -- were recently given title to land by the Western Australia government and designed their community with low impact materials such as rammed earth as well as renewable energy power sources. Kim Trouchet from the Centre for Applications of Solar Energy, who assisted in the project, says it was as emotional as it was technical from the Aboriginal point of view.

The community wanted to be independent from the grid as well as providing technical training to a community workforce, says Trouchet. He notes that the entire scheme was recently dedicated to Louis John Nettle, a Swan Valley Nyungah community elder and ATSIC Regional Councillor. He died in 1994 aged just 38. Nettle had dreamt about his community having its own power supply.

The Westwind turbines are perched on new lightweight 20 metre towers that can be erected by two people without the use of a crane or winch, says Trouchet. Average wind speed at hub height is 5.8 m/s. Power from the wind and PV system is fed into a dedicated building that houses the back-up diesel generator, 55 of the new Sungel 6 volt 300 amp-hour gel batteries manufactured by Battery Energy in New South Wales and a three phase 30 kV inverter from Prime Power Systems. The system is monitored and the data sent via telemetry to Perth.

Already seven energy efficient rammed earth houses have been constructed with another eight planned for the near future. The entire building and power system program has served as a training facility for up to 15 of the community members.

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