With already high petroleum prices expected to rise even further this year, solar projects that will shift dependency away from diesel are underway in several West Australian regional towns.
- A solar farm and battery will be built in the WA town of Norseman
- It will result in about 24 per cent of the town’s power coming from renewable sources
- Similar projects are planned for several towns in the WA Mid West
Energy provider Horizon Power has announced it would build a centralized solar farm and battery in Norseman, about 720km east of Perth.
The 758 kilowatt solar farm would consist of 1,400 panels and would house a 336 kilowatt-hour battery energy storage system.
On completion, the project would see just over 24 per cent of the town’s energy sourced from renewable energy.
Currently, the township relies entirely on a diesel-generated power station for its electricity.
Dundas Shire President Laurene Bonza said a development application had been lodged with the council.
“It looks like solar and renewables are going to be the way of the future and we get a little bit of a jump on that,” she said.
“Hopefully, it will mean our power is reliable and we are doing our bit.”
If approved, construction was expected to get underground early next year.
The diesel power plant would then be used to ensure supply.
Demand for energy was expected to increase with a gold mill currently under construction in the area.
“The mine has already extended the old power station and added in a couple more diesel generators to make sure we so don’t end up in the dark,” Ms Bonza said.
“Este [solar farm and battery] should make sure we never end up in the dark.”
There was an extra incentive to switch to renewables when the federal government’s temporary cut to the fuel excise tax was removed at the end of September.
The Norseman solar project was part of a broader roll out in which Horizon Power planned to install centralized solar and battery storages systems in the mid-west towns of Cue, Sandstone, Meekatharra, Mount Magnet, Wiluna and Yalgoo.
Horizon Power Esperance and Goldfields spokesperson Priscilla Davies said the Norseman solar farm would be completed by mid 2023.
“With the other towns we are looking at beginning some later this year, in September or October,” she said.
“What we are looking at doing is assisting the towns that have a heavy diesel reliance at the moment and giving them the opportunity to have some renewable power generation.”
Curtin University professor of sustainability Peter Newman said the majority of new standalone power systems that were going into farms, remote stations and small towns still used diesel as a backup, even if a battery was available.
“Diesel is very expensive and it’s quite poisonous, so the sooner we get rid of it the better and we are going through that change process now,” he said.
“There is a new invention in Western Australia which is making hydrogen out of the excess solar that is around most days.
“That hydrogen can then be used instead of diesel, and I think is the way we will go in the future to get rid of the final bits of diesel.”
Mr Newman said WA had the potential to be a leader in the shift away from fossil fuels and to more renewable sources.
“I think we are going to one of the first places in the world that can get off fossil fuels and thrive,” he said.
“It’s a lot better when you’re relying on sunshine rather than importing oil from wherever.”