An edge-of-grid property in southern Western Australia has been fitted with its own stand-alone power systems, or SPS, using solar, battery storage, and a back-up diesel generator to provide secure power for environmental NGO Greening Australia.
W.A. minister Bill Johnston said on Friday that the SPS, the first of its kind to go to a community group, had been installed by Western Power at Greening Australia’s 750-hectare Nowanup property in the state’s south-west.
The property – a base for Greening Australia’s work to extend and relink key areas of native vegetation in the central zone of the Gondwana Link – sits at the end of a spur line and is highly susceptible to power outages due to stormy weather and bushfires.
Inland from Bremer Bay, the property is positioned between two nature reserves, making it a key link in providing connected habitat for wildlife across the landscape.
“With a reserve to the east and to the west, this property is an important part of the Gondwana Link pathway as it creates connectivity between those two reserves,” says Barry Heydenrych, project manager at Greening Australia.
“Over the past decade we’ve restored around 350 hectares of farmland back to wildlife habitat, and we maintain another 400 hectares of existing bushland on this property.”
The Western Power SPS – one of scores being rolled out by the state-owned utility – features solar panels, a battery for energy storage and a generator for backup, to replacing the ageing overhead assets and significantly improve reliable supply.
The SPS is also expected to enable the local community and Curtin University to expand the use of the property as a bush campus, allowing Noongar learning and teachings in a bush setting.
“Stand-alone power systems directly benefit our state by improving power reliability, facilitating greener energy and supporting community organisations and businesses,” said Johnston in a statement on Friday.
“This collaboration with Greening Australia highlights how alternative energy solutions, such as stand-alone power systems, can make a real difference to regional conservation and cultural tourism.”
Heydenrych said a key advantage of the off-grid power solution was that it would reduce bushfire risk, by taking the poles and wires out of the equation.
“Power failures have been frequent, and particularly given our line of work, bushfires are a constant concern. A big bushfire would damage all the good work we’ve been doing.
“Another big appeal for us is that we will be creating our power mainly from the sun, which is something that resonates with everyone,” he said.
“One of the things we asked was whether it could be upgraded, and because it is a modular technology, it can.
“There’s a house, shed and a caravan, used… for the cultural work at Nowanup, which is by and large community-driven and operates on the smell of an oily rag,” said Heydenrych, “so the power usage is currently not huge.
“The unit will deal with our power requirements right now and in the future, if we need it, we can scale things up.”
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As One Step Off The Grid has reported, Western Power is installing a total of 52 SPS on regional properties in the Mid-West, Wheatbelt and Great Southern parts of Western Australia over the course of this year, with a further 100 planned for 2021.
The rollout builds on the success of a 2016, $4 million pilot scheme, which installed SPS at six different properties around the vast state, saving the network on grid maintenance costs and saving customers from more than 90 hours of outages in the second year of the trial.
Western Power then went ahead with round 1 of the project, in which it partnered with three renewable energy companies – two local Perth outfits and one in Victoria – to install 57 of the stand-alone systems in 2019.
One of those companies, Hybrid Systems, supplied, delivered and installed the vast bulk of those systems – 49 out of 57 – comprising a total of 250kW of solar panels, 220kW of solar inverters and nearly 600kWh of lithium battery energy storage.
It is estimated that the 52 SPS in round one of the scheme, alone, will replace a total of 230km of powerlines.