“Black Rock, blue sea, Red Point, Bidgy” — it’s part of the chorus of an Indigenous Hip Hop Projects (IHHP) song describing life in the remote West Kimberley community of Bidyadanga. The town’s solar resource is a given, but has been untapped until last week when 160 kW of PV generation was installed across four community buildings under Horizon Power’s Solar Incentives Scheme.
Situated just off the Great Northern Highway, much closer to Broome (180km away) than to Perth (1,590 km), Bidyadanga has around 750 residents whose lives and activities have until now been 100% powered by diesel generation — a costly, noisy and polluting electricity source at odds with this magnificent natural landscape on the edge of the Indian Ocean.
The priority of the Solar Incentives Scheme is to reduce the cost of energy in remote communities and hence the taxpayer-funded subsidy received by Horizon Power, Western Australia’s regional utility, to deliver electricity to far-flung locations.
The scheme was inaugurated by Djarindin and Lombadina Corporations, also in the West Kimberley, which have installed solar panels and inverters that are expected to reduce their energy bills by up to $40,000 a year.
These “tens of thousands of dollars the community will save on its power bills as a result of the solar, can be invested back into the community to benefit residents,” said Bidyadanga CEO, Tania Baxter in a statement announcing completion of the project.
Under the scheme which runs until June 2020, Horizon Power will provide 30% (capped at $100,000 per project) of the upfront capital cost of solar systems installed by eligible Aboriginal Corporations in its constituency.
These include Beagle Bay, Ardyaloon, Warmun, Kalumburu and Looma Corporations.
In an interview late last year, CEO of Horizon Power, Stephanie Unwin told pv magazine, “The future is telling us that we’re moving away from diesel and petrol. I say bring it on. But there’s no one solution. We have to look at every situation through the eyes of our customers.”
Energy tailored to meet community aspirations
The best solutions, Unwin said, “will be tailored” to individual community aspirations and needs.
In recent months, Horizon Power has announced completion of off-grid hybrid renewable solutions for remote Western Australian properties, and of an innovative distributed-energy microgrid that integrates solar energy, battery storage and thermal generation for the coastal town of Onslow (population around 850) in the Pilbara region; and it invited expressions of interest for participation in a green hydrogen demonstration project, which could render the tourist town of Denham in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area a zero-emissions community
A statement by Horizon Power last year said it was “also exploring options to develop centralised solar arrays in remote communities, to reduce the amount of diesel burned, and therefore our carbon footprint”.
Baxter says, that the Bidyadanga community “would ultimately like to see solar on the roofs of houses in the community, to help individuals reduce their power bills”.
In the meantime, the community’s administration building, general store, community service centre and local workshop are now running on sunshine.