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DEA CLARK: Birdsville is one of Queensland's most remote communities. With a population of 100, it's renowned for its local pub and the annual Birdsville races. Birdsville lies on top of the Great Artesian Basin - the largest groundwater basin in the world. Its water is heated by the Earth more than one kilometre beneath the surface. In an Australian first, Birdsville is harnessing this resource to produce electricity.

DAVID SMYTH, ERGON ENERGY: Geothermal energy is used all over the world. Australia unfortunately is not a high user of Geothermal energy at this point, Birdsville being the only power station that runs off Geothermal energy. But there are plenty of opportunities for Australia to use this energy source.

DEA CLARK: The power station generates electricity by drawing near-boiling water from a bore in the Great Artesian Basin. The water heats and pressurises gas to drive a turbine. It's then discharged into a pond for further cooling and reticulation into the town's water supply.

DAVID SMYTH: We don’t produce any greenhouse gases by using geothermal power and it's 24 hours a day unlike some other renewable energy sources which like solar for example is only available during daylight hours.

DEA CLARK: At the moment, 25% of Birdsville’s energy use is geothermal supplementing its gas and diesel fired generators. Now along with the state government, power supplier Ergon Energy is investigating expansion of the project.

DAVID SMYTH: There'll be times when we need to use generators when we’re maintaining the supplier to supply the load but that’s our aim to supply the township of Birdsville with renewable energy power.

DEA CLARK: Locals are excited but then again anything would be better than the situation they faced not all that long ago.

CR. BARRY GAFFNEY, RESIDENT: It was 8 kva 240 volt power plant which gave us fans and permanent lighting at night and that type of thing and it didn't take long before the people in town to realised that if they got up early enough in the morning they could make a slice of toast with a toaster instead of an open fire.

DEA CLARK: The project's future hinges on a feasibility study. And everyone's hoping for a positive outcome.

JOHN MICKEL, ENERGY MINISTER: I want to be assured and I know Ergon want to be assured that an enlarged plant with an increased flow rate of water doesn't have an adverse impact on the environment which may cause hardship to other farmers who access the artesian system.

DAVID SMYTH: We're also looking at minimising the use of water that we take from the Great Artesian Basin. What we’re wanting to do is to reinject some of that water.

DEA CLARK: Electricity consumption in remote communities is expected to more than double over the next 50 years. Geothermal power is just one of a number of ways Ergon Energy is trying to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to meet that demand. 280 kilometres up the road at Windorah a solar farm is about to be erected.

DAVID SMYTH: This is a bit of an experimental project and if it proves to be successful we would like to introduce concentrated PV cells into other locations.

DEA CLARK: One thing is certain if these projects work, both communities will be on the map as world leaders in sustainable energy generation.
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