WA Coal Town Council Votes Against Saving With Solar Power

Installing solar panels could have saved Shire of Collie and its ratepayers a bucket of cash, but Council has voted against the idea. Why? Because Collie is a coal town.

Collie is located in the South West region of Western Australia, around 210 kilometres south of Perth. Collie’s major industry is coal mining, with the town’s two mines producing WA’s entire coal supply – much of which is used for electricity generation.

In a meeting on July 10, a report was tabled indicating Council could save around $446,0001 on electricity costs over ten years (net savings) by installing solar power systems on the Shire Depot, Roche Park facility and Library.

Council’s Director of Development Services recommended quotes for the supply and installation of these systems be sought and a loan of up to $90,000 in the 18/19 budget made available for the project.

With Council spending a substantial amount of money on electricity and the project being in harmony with Councils’ Strategic Community Plan and Corporate Business Plan, it seemed like a slam-dunk decision to give the green light. Council also recently approved a 20MW solar farm for the area.

However, the initiative was voted down 5-2 at the meeting. The minutes from the meeting can be viewed here.

“In Competition With The Coal Industry”

As to why this occurred, it appears come councillors have rocks in their heads – little black ones that is.

The Collie Mail reports Councillor John Piavanini stated he was ‘totally opposed’ to the idea and the shire should be ‘leading the way and burning more coal’. Councillor Michelle Smith seemed to be concerned about the message Council would be sending given coal’s presence in the town.

Perhaps the experience with the 20MW project made a few Councillors jittery – there was some opposition in the town to the solar farm based on aesthetics and the threat to coal; although these views seemed quite limited. In terms of aesthetics, that was a curious concern raised given the scars coal mining have left on Collie’s landscape.

Collie coal mines

Image: Google Earth

Collie’s Residents Embrace Solar Power

In general, Collie’s residents don’t appear to have a problem with rooftop solar power or potentially angering the coal gods.

According to 2016 Census data, there were  9,105 people at that point in the Collie region. Clean Energy Regulator statistics indicate small scale solar power is very popular in the 6225 postcode –  more than 1,150 systems are installed in the area, with a collective capacity of around 3.7 megawatts.

It remains to be seen how the people of Collie react to Council’s resistance to saving ratepayers a big chunk of change.

Footnotes

  1. That assessment was based on electricity prices increasing 5% year on year
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.

Comments

  1. Ah, bless ’em.

    Holding back the tides worked out great for King Canute, too.

  2. Joe Blake says

    ” In terms of aesthetics, that was a curious concern raised given the scars coal mining have left on Collie’s landscape.”

    This attitude harks back to the days of the unlamented former treasurer Joe Hockey’s views on wind turbines being a “blight on the landscape”, while failing to condemn the ugliness of the thousands of kilometres of landscape being blighted by high voltage transmission towers. At least there was a landscape to be blighted, not just a series of big ‘oles in t’ ground. And whilst the transmission towers may not have offended Hockey’s peculiar sense of aesthetics, they certainly caused a major problem when some of them (though only a few) blew over in a storm a couple of years ago.

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