Broken Hill City Council Looking To Take Operations “Off The Grid”

Broken Hill and solar energy

NSW’s Broken Hill City Council is encouraging the community to get involved in its ambitious renewable energy aspirations.

Council adopted a draft Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP) in November last year for the purpose of public exhibition, which closed in late December.  In February this year, Council voted to formally adopt the draft REAP.

Council wants to investigate the potential to construct a “medium scale” solar farm (which would generally be considered large-scale), and commit to a goal of the city being 100% powered by renewable energy by 2030. $50,000 in the draft 2021-22 budget has been earmarked to establish the size of the solar farm and compile a shortlist of viable locations.

“The goal is to take Council’s entire operation off the grid, and potentially look at supplying cheap energy to local businesses and households to offer some financial relief from utility costs,” said Council’s Manager Sustainability, Waste and Works, Kathy Graham.

As for how literal that “off the grid” comment was, Ms. Graham noted various companies are planning to construct large energy storage facilities around Broken Hill, and that Council could leverage off these projects. It may be more accurate to state the goal is to have Council running off entirely self-generated and locally stored energy.

One of the storage projects in the pipeline is AGL’s  Broken Hill Battery Energy Storage System, which involves a facility approximately 50 MW/100 MWh. Whether AGL will be open to Council eating some of its lunch is another matter, and it appears AGL’s Silverton Wind Farm and 53MW Broken Hill Solar Plant will have dibs on its use.

But this project will play a role in Transgrid’s proposed plan (currently on hold) to make Broken Hill the home of one of the world’s largest grid-connected mini-grids; supplied by solar energy, wind and grid-scale storage. So, perhaps Council may achieve a 100% renewables scenario without having to do anything. 

While not a done deal, Transgrid envisions grid-scale storage in the region soaking up excess renewable energy from south-western New South Wales that would otherwise be spilt, releasing it back when it’s most needed. When the single transmission line that supplies Broken Hill is out of action, the battery storage will work with wind and solar energy generation to power the town. 

Anyway, the prospect of cheaper, clean energy will no doubt grab the attention of many in Broken Hill. Residents and business owners have been invited to information sessions to be held at the Civic Centre on May 21. These sessions will also provide an opportunity for those attending to provide input on how Broken Hill can make the most of renewable energy in the future.

Broken Hill – A Solar Energy Slam Dunk

Whichever way things go, it looks like there’s a lot more solar in the works for Broken Hill, both for Council and the community.

Broken Hill was built on mining, particularly silver, lead and zinc. But as well as being rich in resources extracted from the ground, it also has plenty that can be harvested from above. The town experiences among highest levels of solar radiation in New South Wales, making installing solar panels a slam dunk for households and companies with suitable rooftops.

In Broken Hill, solar panels are already a very common sight on the rooftops of homes and businesses. In the 2880 postcode, more than 4,799 small-scale systems had been installed as at February 28, 2021, with a cumulative capacity north of 20.5MW.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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