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Solar Set to Power Parts of the Kimberley

 

Horizon Power, which is one of WA’s two energy providers, is getting closer to completing its solar upgrades to buildings within the Shire of Derby and West Kimberley. Derby is over 2300 kilometres north of Perth and just over 220 kilometres from Broome. The town is one of the biggest in the Kimberley region!

These upgrades have formed the Derby Solar, Battery and Smart Streetlights project; funded by the Western Australian government as part of its $5.5 billion Recovery Plan. If you’d like to read more about the WA Recovery Plan, click here.

What is the Derby Solar, Battery and Smart Streetlights Project?

Derby’s remoteness makes it a difficult and expensive place when it comes to getting access to energy. However, it was this remoteness, as well as the identification of access issues, that sparked the beginning of the project. Luckily enough, Horizon Power came up with a brilliant renewables-focused solution.

This solution involves the installation of rooftop solar and battery storage systems at Derby’s hospital, as well as rooftop systems across a bunch of different buildings in the region. The project, once finished, will reduce the Shire of Derby’s energy bills; lowering its greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Furthermore, over 1,100 streetlights will be converted to energy-efficient smart LED lights. These streetlight upgrades will help keep the town well lit at night and make it a safer place for the locals. You might also be wondering why they are using smart LED lights, because we did too; the answer is super interesting. Using smart LED lights allows Horizon Power to monitor and respond to any faults/outages in real time!

What Has Already Been Completed?

This project will see a total of about 647kW worth of rooftop installed around the Shire of Derby. So far, 13 installations have taken place; a total of about 283kW worth of panels having been installed by Remote Solar Solutions. The company is based in Derby and is owned and operated by Indigenous Australians; giving customers access to solar power in isolated areas throughout the Kimberley region. Some of the buildings included in this rollout are:

  • Derby Airport
  • Derby Childcare Centre
  • Fitzroy Crossing Airport
  • Fitzroy Crossing Visitor’s Centre

As part of the project, a custom-made 40kW solar shade has been installed at Derby’s Memorial Swimming Pool. The structure was officially opened on the 5th August 2021. The solar shade will help significantly lower the facility’s operating costs… and it looks pretty cool, too. In fact, WA’s Minister for Energy, Bill Johnston, said that Derby will save an average of $170,000 a year in electricity costs. That is huge! The final piece of Horizon’s Derby solar puzzle will be the installation that is set to be undertaken on the hospital.

Derby Memorial Swimming Pool. Image Source: Remote Solar Solutions

When Will the Project Be Completed?

There have been a number of key dates in this project; all of which have seemingly been met by Horizon Power and all the other parties involved. So, it looks like a clear path ahead in terms of the project finishing on time. Some of these key dates include:

  • Local community and industry briefing session in October 2020.
  • Local project procurement in January 2021.
  • Installations beginning in March 2021.

The entire project is expected to be finished in early 2022. So, if you’d like to read more about the project, download Horizon Power’s fact sheet here! Additionally, if you’ve got Derby on your list of places to visit… make sure you go and check out the solar shade.

Have There Been Other Solar Projects in the Kimberley?

A good question with an even better answer. One of the most interesting projects we found was in Bidyadanga; an Indigenous community in the West Kimberley. Solar panels were installed on four community buildings, thanks to Horizon Power. Furthermore, this project is expected to save the community $40,000 a year on energy bills; a total of 160kW worth of solar panels being installed. The best news? These savings are being put back into the community!

So, if you’re looking at getting solar, don’t forget to get 3 free quotes with Solar Market. No matter whether you’re in WA… or anywhere else in Australia! You can also find us on social media and let us know what you think of the project! We’d love to hear from you.

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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