Australian news, and some related international items

Broken Hill’s giant leap – from mining hub to solar centre

Renewables roadshow: how Broken Hill went from mining to drag queens and solar farms The home of BHP and Mad Max can now take credit for kickstarting the large-scale solar industry in Australia, Guardian, , 13 Apr 17, “…….Broken Hill gave birth to one of the least renewable industries on Earth, but it can now claim to be the Australian birthplace of one of the most renewable.

On the outskirts of the city lies a solar farm that covers an area equivalent to 75 Sydney Cricket Grounds. Built by AGL, the 53MW Broken Hill solar plant is one of two solar farms (the other 102MW one is in Nyngan) built in outback New South Wales at the same time. Adam Mackett from AGL, who was the project manager for the Broken Hill plant, credits these farms with kickstarting the large-scale solar industry in Australia.

Officially opened in January 2016, the plants were built with subsidies from the federal government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), as well as support from the NSW government.

With that funding, AGL was able to jump into the large-scale solar industry, and in doing so, create a supply chain that is bringing down the cost of solar farms around the country.

For example, Mackett says a manufacturing plant in the struggling car industry retooled to provide the frames for the solar panels, and is now able to do that for the whole industry.

“That was something [the plant] didn’t previously do,” Mackett says. “You can imagine they’ve learned a lot about that. And as they learn, they become more efficient and that brings the costs down.”

 And come down it did. Government subsidies of about $1.50 per watt were needed to get the Broken Hill and Nyngan plants up and running. Last year that fell to just 19c per watt, and construction costs have fallen by about 40%. By kickstarting the industry, supply chains were built and the large-scale solar businesses became “de-risked”, making the cost of capital cheaper for subsequent projects…….

Silverton will also be the the site of AGL’s new 58-turbine windfarm project, with construction scheduled to start this year.

Price says the focus on renewables can only be a good thing and may attract a new demographic to the town. “[These new things] give us the opportunity to build our businesses,” he says.

The transition from mining the ground to mining the sun is also shifting the artistic culture that has long existed in Broken Hill. The blazing light that streams down on the area has attracted painters for more than a century, says Susan Thomas, the chief executive of the Broken Hill Art Exchange……..

“Broken Hill Art Exchange has had quite a focus on environmental projects. [There] has been a focus on solar power and new technologies and how art integrates with those new innovations,” she says. “We run an artists’ residency here, and there’s been a number of artists who have wanted to come to Broken Hill and engage with the new technologies that are developing.”

The city that once supported the artists was itself supported by mining. Now it needs to reimagine itself.

So that brilliant light, once the drawcard for artists, looks as though it will become its biggest asset. Thomas says: “Looking at renewables was a no-brainer, actually, because of our sunlight here.”



April 14, 2017 - Posted by | New South Wales, solar

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