Derby Hospital Solar System (Finally) Operational

Derby Hospital solar power system

Western Australia’s Derby Regional Hospital is looking forward to much cheaper electricity bills thanks to a newly installed commercial solar power system.

After a $1.4 million investment by the Cook Government, Derby Regional Hospital now boasts a 364-kilowatt rooftop system, comprised of 910 solar panels. Horizon Power installed the system in a partnership with WA Country Health Service.

It’s estimated the system will result in a $70,000 per annum reduction in “variable energy costs” for the hospital; reducing the facility’s mains grid annual energy consumption by 24 per cent, and slashing its carbon emissions by about 300 tonnes per year.

A $70,000 annual energy saving means a simple payback of 20 years. This seems very long for commercial solar, which can often achieve payback in just a few years – but perhaps this was a particularly complex project. When originally announced back in 2020, the project’s capacity was also significantly larger – 550 kW.

Regardless of the lengthy lead time and trimmed down capacity, Western Australia’s Energy Minister Reece Whitby seems pretty pleased with the outcome

“The Derby Regional Hospital solar system is a great example of the Cook Government delivering on its commitment to increase renewable energy uptake throughout regional and remote Western Australia,” stated Minister Whitby.

Kimberley MLA Divina D’Anna said future generations need to be considered not just in terms of their health but the wider environment.

“I am excited with this announcement that not only exemplifies our commitment to the environment by reducing carbon emissions and saving money for essential health service delivery, but also aligns with our collective goal for net zero by 2050.”

WA Country Health Service says the system will be supported by the Derby Community Battery

Boosting Derby’s Solar Power Capacity

The hospital installation will provide a nice lift to Derby’s PV tally, and appears to be the largest system installed in the 6728 postcode area to date. In terms of small-scale PV (under 100kW), more than 241 solar systems had been installed in Derby as at January 31, 2024; for a total capacity just shy of 4MW.

Given Derby’s excellent solar energy resources, perhaps the total should be quite a bit more. But network hosting capacity issues in the past have stymied uptake – although Derby didn’t seem to be quite as badly affected as some other WA towns.

The situation will be changing with Horizon Power’s Smart Connect Solar initiative. It involves an internet connected gadget called a Secure Gateway Device (SGD) that Horizon provides and maintains, enabling it to manage high levels of solar energy on the network. This means output of some systems may be throttled in a situation where the amount of electricity being exported into the grid threatens network stability. How often this happens remains to be seen.

Hosting capacity limits no longer apply once a town has Smart Connect Solar enabled; meaning more households and business can access the benefits of solar power, sooner. Smart Connect Solar applies to new installations only.

The initiative is being rolled out to regional towns in phases. Carnavon was first in line in February, with the North West Interconnected System (Pilbara) and all towns with no existing solar capacity constraints following in late March. Other locations are to follow, with view to completing the rollout by the end of this 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.

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