Western Australia’s remote Kimberley region could save almost $15 million a year on power costs by ditching diesel for a combination of renewable energy and battery storage, a new report has found.
The Kimberley Clean Energy Roadmap, produced by Sustainable Energy Now, modelled different energy paths to show a 60-90 per cent mix of solar, battery storage and wind power could out-compete diesel generators or fracked gas on cost across the region.
It found that a mixture of wind (117 MW) and 97MW of utility-scale solar with battery storage (132 MWh) and some diesel or gas back-up could achieve ongoing annual net savings of $14.8 million, compared to the existing generation mix, which is 94 per cent fossil fuelled.
An even bigger investment in renewables of $489 million over 25 years would save more than $45 million in fuel costs per year, it found.
“When the scenarios were modelled for minimum cost, approximately 50 per cent of renewable energy generation could be achieved for $40-60/MWh less than (fossil) fuelled generation,” the report said.
“When modelling was optimised for savings of $30/MWh over fuelled generation, 60-90 per cent renewable energy generation can be achieved, depending on the location.”
The report – commissioned by The Wilderness Society, Envrions Kimberley and the Lock the Gate Alliance – specifically outlines how small, medium and large communities across the West Kimberley could transition to clean energy.
This includes modelling for the proposed Thunderbird sand mine – a massive “boutique commodities” project located around 60km west of Derby that recently became the largest-yet recipient of a loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.
Across the larger centres of Broome, Derby, and Thunderbird mine, the report found that 80-85 per cent of renewable could be achieved for between 15-18 per cent less than the cost of fossil-fuelled generation, and deliver annual savings of $13.1 million.
In Broome, for example, annual savings of $5.8 million were forecast using a 37MW wind farm over 962 hectares, a 33MW solar farm (172 ha) and a 45MWh battery system.
In the smaller towns of Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, the report found that around 75 per cent renewables could be reached, for
a cost 11-12 per cent lower than that of fossil-fuelled generation.
Chief author of the roadmap, SEN’s Rob Phillips, said the modelling demonstrated how the creation of renewable energy micro-grids could save even small communities tens of thousands of dollars a year in diesel costs.
“The cost of renewable energy is coming down all the time so our savings are actually quite conservative,” Dr Phillips said.
The shift to renewables would also help create a sustainable local workforce of over 180 jobs across WA, the report found, with 160 of those in the Kimberley.
Western Australia’s Scientist of the Year and sustainability expert Professor Peter Newman has thrown his support behind the plan, describing SEN’s modelling system as “well respected in the industry” alongside their analysis.
“This roadmap provides us with a clear direction. I hope that the WA government will give it the attention it deserves,” Prof Newman said.
State director of the Wilderness Society in WA Kit Sainsbury said the roadmap should put to bed any plans to use fracked gas to power communities in the Kimberley.
“The roadmap comprehensively debunks the myth that fracked gas can provide any sort of future for energy generation in the West Kimberley,” Sainsbury said.
“It outlines a plan to use renewable energy to provide long term power solutions that will save money and create an estimated 184 permanent jobs, many of these in remote communities.”