Derby’s day launches a solar-powered future

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With a population of more than 3,300, Derby, one of the biggest towns in Australia’s Kimberley region, is celebrating solar installations funded by the Western Australian Government’s $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan. Announced last July, the plan includes a $66.3 million renewable-energy package, designed to help foster resilience, create sustainable jobs in localised renewables businesses and help power the state out of the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Derby, $5.2 million has already stretched a long way: engaging the Indigenous-owned Remote Solar Solutions to install 283 kW of rooftop solar on 13 of the Derby/West Kimberley Shire buildings, and funding the installation of 1,100 smart LED streetlights which have improved night-time visibility and safety for pedestrians and drivers in the area.

Smart streetlights allow Horizon Power, the state-government-owned regional electricity supplier, to monitor and respond to faults and outages as they occur.

The jewel in the crown of the Derby Solar, Battery and Smart Streetlights project is the community swimming pool’s new custom-made solar shade, which supports a 40kW solar system that will reduce the facility’s operating costs, and provide a cool community space for the pool’s 20,000 annual visitors.

“I’m incredibly proud that we are able to deliver these meaningful outcomes and renewable energy solutions in support of Derby’s vibrant community,” said Horizon Power CEO Stephanie Unwin, honouring the completion of these project milestones in front of a community artwork framed by the new solar shade.

The seven-metre mural, Derby Drift, painted by local artist Jessica Bidewell with the help of more than 50 of the region’s children, shows the underwater wildlife of the area, and also came under the auspices of the clean-energy project.

Unwin said this “special collaboration undertaken by Horizon Power, Jessica Bidewell, the Derby Youth Centre and Derby’s young artists” will become a “legacy of pride” for the community.

A statement from Bill Johnston, WA’s Minister for Energy, said that the solar projects enabled so far in Derby will “save the Shire an average of $170,000 per year in electricity costs and help reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 460 tonnes annually”.

Still to come in the Derby project are 346 kW of solar to be installed at Derby Hospital, which will operate in tandem with a community battery — “to ensure the hospital can benefit from solar without impacting the ability of the local community to access renewable energy”, said a statement from Horizon Power, which expects these installations to be finalised early next year.

 

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