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A $4 million solar infrastructure program on Groote Eylandt is turning Traditional Owners into sun worshippers.

Mini-solar power plants have been built at three small communities – Bartalumba Bay, Little Paradise and Four Mile – and similar projects at Emerald River and Thompson Bay will begin in April 2021.

Lithium ion batteries with back-up generators have been installed in standalone shipping containers in each community with solar panels mounted to roof-tops of existing homes.

The work is being delivered by the Anindilyakwa Land Council’s Infrastructure Branch with recent works completed by Indigenous-owned solar company DICE Electrical Darwin.

Infrastructure Branch General Manager Matt Houston says the solar projects are improving people’s lives.

“They now have power for everything from lights to cookers and air-conditioning,” he says. “They are enjoying what everyone else takes for granted.”

At first, residents didn’t fully understand the solar systems and often used up all the power before midday.

DICE staff camped at each community for a few days to monitor power use and educate people on how to make use of the solar electricity.

“We were very impressed with DICE for doing that,” says Mr Houston. “Their advice was often as simple but effective as telling people what to turn off during the day.”

Another project is for 10kW solar systems to be fitted to the roofs of 15 ALC staff houses and the workers’ camp at Alyangula.

The systems are expected to meet all the residents’ electricity needs and feed excess power into the South32 grid. Mr Houston hopes a Traditional Owner will soon be trained in how to repair and maintain the solar systems across the archipelago.