More Solar Hosting Capacity For Broome

Solar power hosting capacity in Broome

Imagine wanting to go solar and not being able to install panels because the local electricity network can’t handle it. That’s a scenario Broome residents have been living with for years.

Western Australia’s Broome has great solar resources, but back in 2018 we reported most residents who wanted to install solar panels couldn’t. At that point, Horizon Power only permitted 10 percent of the town’s electricity to be sourced from solar energy in order to protect its fragile grid. Just 357 solar power systems had been installed in Broome’s postcode at that stage.

Broome wasn’t/isn’t the only town in Horizon’s service area subject to these sorts of limitations.

It wasn’t until 2019 when extra hosting capacity became available in Broome and other selected affected regional areas in Western Australia, and that was snapped up very quickly.

In May this year I checked out Horizon’s eligibility tool; and even for a teeny-tiny 1kW system installation in Broome, it told me “no solar for you” – apparently even if it was zero export limited:

Horizon Power solar eligibility

The only options were installing what would be a very expensive system with what Horizon termed “extended ramp rate smoothing and feed-in management” – or to go fully off grid.

As at the end of April this year, a total of approximately 459 small-scale PV systems had been installed in Broome’s postcode area – a smidge over a hundred new systems since June 2018 for an area with a population of approximately 16,000.

A Ray Of Sunshine – And More To Come

Yesterday, an additional 900 kilowatts (kW) of hosting capacity was released. This allocation lasted until mid-morning, with more than 160 households in Broome jumping at the opportunity.

The good news is this will be followed by another 1,400kW of hosting capacity in December 2021 to be available to business and households in the town. Businesses will get access to the lion’s share – 1150kW, with the remaining 250kW hosting capacity earmarked for residential customers.

According to the Western Australian Government, the release in December will be accompanied by additional solutions assisting business customers to access solar power in a more cost-effective way; but doesn’t provide any further detail.

It’s unlikely this recent and next release will sate demand for residential solar in Broome. Additional hosting capacity will be made available as Horizon Power implements technical solutions to support increasing levels of renewable energy; such as the installation of battery storage.

“Government regional energy provider, Horizon Power, has been working hard to transform the electricity grids across regional WA to support increasing levels of renewable energy and provide customers with greater choice and control over their energy,” said WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston.

It’s been a really sucky situation for Broome residents – one worth taking notice of as even in some metropolitan areas across Australia hosting capacity has become an issue and new solar owners are severely export limited. And it will become a greater problem if a solid start on addressing the challenges doesn’t happen soon.

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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