Renewables roadshow: how Broken Hill went from mining to drag queens and solar farms – by Michael Slezak (The Guardian – April 12, 2017)

The home of BHP and Mad Max can now take credit for kickstarting the large-scale solar industry in Australia

Broken Hill is the birthplace of modern mining in Australia. It lends its initials “BH” to the mining giant BHP, and in January 2015 in an Australian first, the so-called Silver City was added to the National Heritage list in part due to its mining industry.

The city is cut in half by a mine, with a giant pile of waste material rising from its centre. It can be seen from every street in town, like a monument to the stuff the city was built from.

But over the years, mining in Broken Hill has declined. Even the titular hill, the one that appeared “broken”, has been mined away. As it disappeared, so did the jobs. Around 30,000 people once lived in Broken Hill, with 3,500 employed in the mines. Nowadays the population is around 18,000; approximately 500 of those work in mining.

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.

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