The 1.8 Megawatt Yulara Solar project is Ark Energy 's newest and largest off-grid solar power project, providing essential power to the iconic Ayers Rock Resort. It is located near Uluru (Ayers Rock) which is one of Australia's most famous international icons, and a spectacular location to demonstrate Australia's solar power capability.

Ark Energy owns and operates the facility, with the power provided to the Voyages Ayers Rock Resort under a long term lease arrangement.

Ark Energy and Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia have joined forces to build, own and operate a 1.8MW off-grid solar power station to support the power used at Ayers Rock Resort.

Ayers Rock Resort is the gateway to the iconic Uluru Kata Juta national park. The existing power system is fuelled by compressed natural gas (CNG) delivered daily via road train from Alice Springs, approximately 450 kilometres from the resort. The integration of solar PV into the power system was identified as a way to manage the resort’s expenditure on energy over the long term, reduce exposure to energy price volatility and decrease the resort’s overall carbon emissions.

Under the arrangements, Ark Energy has designed, built, owns and operates the 1.8MW solar power station which is located across five different facilities at the resort. Instead of using a more traditional Power Purchase Agreement, Ark Energy and Voyages negotiated an Availability Leasing model, which more effectively shares the long-term risks and opportunities of running solar PV systems in remote areas.

The 1.8 MW solar PV system consists of five individual component arrays ranging in size from around 100 kilowatts to 1 megawatt. The combined system provides approximately 15 per cent of Yulara’s average electricity demand and 30 per cent of peak demand. The separate solar PV arrays are physically dispersed around Yulara, located near points of high demand and integrated into a remote local distribution grid. This dispersed approach is expected to minimise network variability and increase reliability.

The individual systems are located at different areas of the resort as follows:

  • Ayers Rock (Connellan) Airport – 106 kilowatts rooftop mounted
  • Desert Gardens – 1058 kilowatts ground mounted
  • Sails in the Desert – 107 kilowatts rooftop mounted
  • Commercial Laundry – 328 kilowatts ground mounted
  • Service Station – 227 kilowatts ground mounted

Ark Energy awarded the construction tender to CPS National with commissioning in March 2016.

The project will send a positive renewable energy message to resort guests, business partners and the Yulara community. It also:

  • demonstrates how to deploy solar PV utilising innovative tendering and commercial models
  • demonstrates the advantages of PV integration with an existing mini-grid
  • reduces operating costs for both the resort and its existing electricity supplier
  • generates relevant and useful knowledge to be shared with the energy industry.

The development and financing of the project was supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).