How an Australian Mining Town Became a Solar Power Trailblazer – by James Paton (Bloomberg News – December 20, 2015)

Broken Hill spawned the world’s largest mining company and generated more than $75 billion in wealth. Now as its minerals ebb, Australia’s longest-lived mining city is looking to tap a more abundant resource.

On the sun-baked edge of the Outback city, 700 miles west of Sydney, a solar farm the size of London’s Hyde Park shimmers like an oasis — its panels sending enough electricity to the national grid to power 17,000 homes a year. Combined with a sister plant, the AGL Energy Ltd. and First Solar Inc.project is the largest of its type in the southern hemisphere.

Clean energy advocates are counting on the 140-hectare (346-acre) development to make Broken Hill, which at one time boasted the world’s most successful silver mine, a trailblazer once again.

The birthplace of Broken Hill Proprietary Co., whose 2001 merger with Billiton Plc formed the mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd., will help pave the way for more projects that profit from the sun’s power.

“It’s giving birth to the large-scale solar industry in Australia,” said Adam Mackett, AGL’s project manager, as he strolled among the 678,000 solar panels under a cloudless blue sky. “Hopefully, from Broken Hill’s point of view, they’ll see this as the start of something bigger.”

Australia gets more solar radiation per square meter than any other continent. Yet while the nation leads the world in installing rooftop solar panels, it trails 19 countries from Bulgaria to Ukraine in producing the power at solar farms.

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