The Australian electricity grid includes three major sections which are not connected:
- the so-called National Electricity Maket, linking all of the east coast and South Australia
- the Western Australian grid in the south west of Western Australia, centered on Perth and
- the Pilbara local grid serving the mining area in the north west.
Associate Professor Neil Howes has suggested linking these three grids in order to make better use of Australia’s rich renewable energy porential.
In particular, a 1500 kilometre high voltage DC connection between Norseman in Western Aystralia and Port Augusta in South Australia would link the solar potential of the western deserts, the wind potential of the southern coast and the geothermal resources of South Australia into the eastern National Electricity Market. In addition, the time difference between the east and west coasts would extend the length of time during which daylight solar energy was available by three hours a day.
Professor Howes also suggests that a 1000 kilometre high voltage AC line be built connecting the southern Western Australian grid at Norseman with the northern Pilbara region, which has Australia’s best solar stes, as well as major mining and natural gas developments.
Dr David Mills, who was a leading solar researcher in Australia before founding Ausra which is now one of the world’s leading solar energy producers, has put forward a different proposal for the Pilbara region – that a powerline be built, not to the south, but to the north, to supply electricity to Indonesia and South-East Asia. Dr Mills points out that it makes much more sense to export electricity to Asia than to export gas which is then burned to generate electricity,