WA government provides $11.6 million for solar+storage in remote indigenous communities

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In addition to an existing rooftop PV program, ground mounted solar arrays will be installed in remote Aboriginal communities in the north of Western Australia. The new $11.6 million program, announced today, will see solar and battery storage systems installed at six Indigenous communities in 2020 and 2021. 

Construction tenders will be opened this month. Total solar capacity under the program has been listed as “up to 4 MW”.

The PV systems will replace some diesel generation at the sites, with existing generators remaining in place. The level of solar self sufficiency reached after installation was not released by the government. 

The size of the battery storage systems has also not been specified. However, a spokesperson for the state’s energy minister said that help “smooth” the supply of electricity from the solar systems. 

“This means that when the diesel station has to ramp up or down, based on a sudden change in renewable energy due to cloud cover or changes in consumption, the reliability of power supplied is secured,” the government spokesperson said.  

The communities in which the solar+storage systems will be installed include Warmun, Kalumburu, Ardyaloon, Beagle Bay, Djarindjin/Lombadina and Bidyadanga. 

The program comes on top of a Horizon Power program to encourage the installation of rooftop solar on community buildings. Djarindjin and Lombadina Aboriginal Corporations have already deployed rooftop solar under the program, which see Horizon Power paying for 30% of the arrays and installation, and reportedly already seen a reduction in their electricity bills. 

“The solar incentives scheme allows Aboriginal communities to reduce their power bills for community buildings such as roadhouses, offices and men’s sheds, while also improving the energy reliability during periods when it can be hard to access diesel fuel,” said Aboriginal Affairs Minister and State Treasurer Ben Wyatt in a statement. 

Energy Minister Bill Johnston said it follows on from the state government’s Energy Transformation Strategy. 

In recent years, Horizon Power has pursued an ambitious program to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels in its provision of power. The plan has involved new microgrids, distributed solar and storage arrays, and standalone PV power systems – all in an attempt to bring down emissions while reducing the regional utility’s reliance on significant subsidies provided by the state government.