An $11.6 million investment to fund the installation of solar farms and energy storage in remote Aboriginal communities has been announced as part of the Western Australian State Budget.
The remote communities centralised solar program will be delivered by Horizon Power, and includes the installation of up to four megawatts of solar farms across six communities in the Kimberley – an average of 400 to 600 kilowatts for each community.
The project will significantly reduce the cost of providing power to these towns which are 100 per cent diesel fuelled and will reduce the government’s subsidy paid to Horizon Power.
Construction is scheduled for Warmun and Kalumburu in 2020 and in Ardyaloon, Beagle Bay, Djarindjin/Lombadina and Bidyadanga in 2021.
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The program is being rolled out alongside Horizon Power’s solar incentive project, which encourages eligible remote communities to invest in their own roof-top solar on community buildings, with Horizon Power contributing 30 per cent of the cost.
Djarindjin and Lombadina Aboriginal Corporations were part of the pilot program and have successfully reduced their electricity bills. Horizon Power intends to release a Request for Tender for the construction of the east Kimberley systems in May 2019.
WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston said this low cost and reliable renewable energy solution will foster community development through local jobs, training and investment opportunities.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said, “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”.
Horizon Power has also installed 83 advanced prepayment meters in 11 Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley, Mid-West and Goldfields regions in an effort to make energy bills easier to manage.
Previously, residents would have to contribute to one community bill, regardless of how much each household used.
The funding announcement of the solar installations in WA comes after the Northern Territory Government announced construction was complete for a similar program where solar is being installed in remote communities across the NT.