More Solar For Western Australia’s Derby

Solar energy - Derby, Western Australia

Image: Google Earth

WA Premier Mark McGowan yesterday announced further details of a multi-million-dollar package that will provide a solar energy boost for the Kimberley region town of Derby.

Among the works at Derby Hospital will be a 550kW rooftop solar system and a 275kWh battery installation. Additionally, 310 kW of rooftop solar will be installed on community buildings across the Shire of Derby.

The installations are part of a $5.2 million package previously announced in August that will also see around 827 conventional streetlights upgraded to energy efficient “smart” LED technology. These lights will send outage alerts in real time, removing the need to carry out routine inspections.

The combined projects will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 900 tonnes per year and save the Shire of Derby $170,697 annually; money that will be funnelled back into local youth programs. As for the hospital, it will benefit from more than $590,000 in annual energy supply and consumption savings.

The projects, which will be executed by Horizon Power, form part of the $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan; a component of which is a $66.3 million renewable energy focused package to help boost the state’s economy.

“A key component of our Kimberley Recovery Plan is to invest in renewable energy initiatives that will support the Kimberley region and remote communities, and improve reliability and efficiency to these areas – and help lower energy costs,” said Premier McGowan.

Small-Scale Solar Power In Derby

As at the end of July this year, around 151 small-scale solar power systems (<100kW) had been installed in the Derby postcode area; working out to approximately 7 systems per 100 dwellings – well short of the WA state-wide figure of 31.3%. But the low uptake is unlikely to be the result of a lack of interest.

In some parts of Horizon Power’s service area where grids are fragile, it has only allowed a small percentage of electricity to be generated by solar panels. This situation locked out many from the bill-busting benefits of solar power. But in June last year the McGowan announced an additional 10 megawatts of small scale installations would be able to connect to Horizon Power systems, and among the towns that would benefit was Derby.

Checking Horizon’s website this morning, it indicated Derby currently has 211 kW of available hosting capacity that can be utilised by rooftop solar – assumed to exclude the upcoming projects mentioned above. Derby residents interested in solar might want to get their skates on as that figure is only equivalent to around thirty-two 6.6kW solar systems.

But 6.6kW may not be a good choice depending on energy consumption profile as Horizon’s eligibility calculator indicates systems of that capacity won’t be eligible for feed-in tariffs and may be subject to other technical hoops to jump through. However, the calculator indicates a 5kW system is eligible for the Distributed Energy Buyback Scheme (DEBS), which pays rate of 3c per kilowatt hour for surplus electricity exported to the grid before 3pm and 10c per kilowatt hour between 3pm and 9pm.

The solar feed in tariff in WA was recently slashed for new installations. As SQ’s Ronald mentioned, the reduction makes solar power a less attractive investment than it was in Western Australia, but it’s still a very good deal for homes with unshaded roofs.

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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