Quality news, views and analysis of issues that affect and inform us in the Douglas Shire.

DAINTREE POWER / The Future Of Micro-Grid?

What is the future of the micro-grid project? Approximately 60 residents attended a presentation in Diwan on Sunday by Daintree Renewable Energy Inc.'s Russell O'Doherty and Volt Advisory Group Project Manager Richard Schoenemann, as the Daintree Micro-grid project pushes further toward shovel ready.
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Approximately 60 residents attended a presentation in Diwan on Sunday by Daintree Renewable Energy Inc.’s Russell O’Doherty and Volt Advisory Group Project Manager Richard Schoenemann, as the Daintree Micro-grid project pushes further toward shovel ready.

NATALIE JOHNSON breaks down the meeting.


  • Federally funded report almost complete with view to shovel ready end of July / early August
  • Some questions unable to be answered
  • Up to 30 investors interested in taking on the project
  • Private property owners have expressed interest in hosting infrastructure
  • 120 kilometres of cabling required
  • A strip of land, 300 metres in length situated in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area required to have cabling 20 feet underground
  • Warren Entsch notes connection to the micro-grid will increase property values

Residents from Cow Bay to Cape Tribulation travelled to Diwan on Sunday to listen to an update on the progress of the proposed 100% renewable Daintree Hydrogen Fuel Cell micro-grid. Leading the discussion, was President of Daintree Renewable Energy Inc.’s Russell O’Doherty, and Volt Advisory Group Project Manager Richard Schoenemann, supported by Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch.

Several Douglas Shire Councillors were in attendance.

In November 2019, the Federal Government granted Daintree Renewable Energy (DRE) $990,150 toward a feasibility study designed to take the micro-grid project to ‘shovel-ready’ status within 12 months.

The pilot program, should an investor sign-on and all approvals granted, could be the site of Australia’s first solar power to hydrogen gas-based micro-grid.

Before the presentation, Mr O’Doherty informed residents some of their questions might not be answerable due to the significant number of non-disclosure agreements in place and issues surrounding quote confidentiality.  However, presenters would “try to be as open and honest as possible.”

Mr Schoenemann advised the study was almost complete, having considered up to 20 engineering milestones including:

  • Current area loads and loads to be served
  • Protection coordination study for the assets
  • Construction manuals and cost models
  • Soil stability tests, location plans, designs, and root plans for cabling

The study will culminate in a “fully-fledged and costed design plan” and business case, “plus or minus 20% how much it will cost.”


Mr Schoenemann pointed out Volt Advisory Group had engaged global engineering company Arcadis to do most of the engineering study technical work.  Arcadis are familiar with operating in challenging, sensitive areas including the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Regarding potential investors, he advised, “a long list of about 30 investors,” currently all of whom were based in Australia have expressed interest. Mr Entsch added, “a lot of big companies are seeking credit to get rid of diesel in here (Daintree) and hang it up on their boardroom wall.”

The first questions raised queried where the infrastructure would be based and concerns surrounding aesthetics.

In response, Mr Schoenemann advised all proposed infrastructure, including the hydrogen storage, switchgear, battery banks and tanks would be built on, “privately owned, non-wet tropics, non-national park sites with already cleared land,” housed within storage containers totalling approximately, “10 to 15 containers.” Suitable sites north of Alexandra Range were under consideration with several landowners interested in leasing their properties to host the project. With some contracts, subject to approvals, already in place.

Mr Schoenemann went on to advise for the grid to be 100% renewable, approximately six to eight hectares of land would be required to host between six and ten megawatts of solar panels. Cabling consisting of conduit containing electrical and fibre cable totalling 120 kilometres would run underground, parallel to existing Telstra infrastructure and utilise current Council owned easements and roadways not subject to Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) approvals.   Drilling through roads and cable ploughing between table drains and roads would be challenging in places, requiring some drilling under the road, however, would cause, “no disturbance to the natural habitat and natural environment.” Small pillar-boxes on the roadside would be available for residential connection; however, cabling from homes to the roadside pillar-box would be at the property owners’ expense.

The question of culverts and bridges was raised, with Mr Schoenemann advising the negotiation of 32 creeks and culverts would be achieved above ground.

A cable design is available.


Mr Entsch added owners who chose to be part of the network would be subject to a safety and compliance inspection, at a cost the government would consider subsidising due to community disadvantage and his belief, “a substantial number of properties would not be compliant.”

Much discussion about the micro-grid project has centred around cabling negotiating the Alexandra Range.   During the study, a previously used, Council gazetted road, between Cape Kimberley Road and Buchanan Creek Road running between two private properties, was discovered.  The cabling would run 20 feet underground, as the area above, approximately 300 metres in length, fell in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.

Mr Schoenemann advised preliminary discussions had already commenced with WTMA regarding the area of World Heritage rainforest, with the possibility of delay only foreseen if the Federal Environmental Protection Biodiversity Act (EPBC) was activated by those opposed to the project.  All other land required would fall under the Douglas Shire Council who were, Mr Entsch declared, “very supportive with what is happening here.”


Mr Schoenemann stressed connection to the grid would be 100% optional and “if you’re not interested, don’t connect.”  He went on to note, the study design and intent was to ensure those who connected paid, “the same price as everyone else pays” while receiving the benefit of feed-in tariff.

Volt Advisory Group aim for construction to begin next year, however, noted timing would be controlled by the approvals process, which had already been mapped out and worked on, with the construction phase approximately 18 months.

Mr Entsch reminded residents not interested in connecting to the grid that, “funding for standalone (would) not happen,” reiterating, “Governments will not invest in substituting peoples (RAPS) power.”

Mr Entsch concluded connection to the micro-grid would, “increase the value of your property.”

DRE and Volt Advisory Group will meet with Douglas Shire Council on the 21st of July.


2 Comments
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Allan
9 months ago

Has the estimated system load been established and projected future increase? Or did I miss that media release. Or is that another non disclosure, the problem with a lack of information is it leaves the door open for speculation, doubt and Chinese whispers.

Facing the imminent prospect of outlaying $19,000 to replace my batteries with bottom of the range flooded lead acid, it would please me immensely to see this project proceed, particularly in the time frame stated, but alas I am a realist.

Hugh Spencer
9 months ago

Hi Allan – I have no idea who is advising you. Flooded lead acid batteries are no longer considered an appropriate technology – AGM (Adsorbed Glass Matt, or “gel cell”) are now the appropriate technology – they require no maintenance, and can even be laid on their side. Unless you are using a 48V system (yes?) and you have immense power drains, there is no way you should be having to outlay that sort of money. What is your power useage? How long do you expect to have “carry-over”? Unfortunately neither the Qld Gov’t or the Volt/Sunverge approaches have actually surveyed all residents needs. A problem. Yes, there is sooooo much misinformation. Look at http://www.livingindaintree.org.au/power.html . it might help.