Regional and remote communities can tap into $20 million worth of federal government grants for power supply projects that could get get them off the grid and reduce electricity costs for local residents.
The first round of the Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund is open to applications for feasibility studies on micro-grid projects.
Micro-grids are local power supply networks.
In their simplest form, a micro-grid could mean a small-scale solar farm located near a town that supplies electricity only to the adjacent community.
A more ambitious micro-grid project could go beyond purely local supply by constructing a connection to the established power supply network so it make a financial return from selling excess energy production which isn't required locally.
The cost of electricity remains a concern, particularly in regional and remote Australia and one of the most attractive features for regional towns is the ability to get off the main grid.
That means they avoid paying high network charges to support expansive poles and wires infrastructure which is servicing small rural populations.
Micro-grid construction is also becoming increasingly financially attractive, as the cost of renewable power generation falls.
Micro-grids would be an especially attractive proposition for the remote communities that rely on diesel generators for their power.
Several micro-grid projects are already up and running in the bush. Among them are the privately funded solar farm at Lockhart, NSW, Bogabilla and Goondiwindi on the NSW-Queensland border, and Barcaldine in western Queensland.
If feasibility studies find that microgrids are economically viable, proponents can seek support from federal bodies the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
Round one applications close on November 21. For more information, visit: www.grants.gov.au