W.A. installs first Tesla community battery in state’s Goldfields region

Minister for Energy Bill Johnston, Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan, Western Power CEO Ed Kalajzic and Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Kyle McGinn with the Tesla battery bound for Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Source: Western Power


Western Power has installed a grid-connected Tesla battery PowerBank in Western Australia’s Kalgoorlie-Bolder community to support the uptake of more rooftop solar the state’s Goldfields region and the help smooth its electricity supply.

The battery is the first of 10 being rolled out across a selection of towns and communities in the region over the course of 2020 as part of the Labor McGowan government’s Distributed Energy Resources Roadmap, unveiled in April after a year in the making.

The idea behind the community batteries is two-fold: to enable local homes and businesses in Kalgoorlie to install more rooftop solar and other grid-connected technologies; and for the benefit of the grid, to provide better power management and improve reliability.

As RenewEconomy has reported, W.A. has been among the leaders in Australia’s uptake of rooftop solar, with one in three of the state’s households generating their own renewable power and at times providing up 45 per cent of the state’s total demand.

The rapid accumulation of such a huge behind-the-meter solar resource – which is expected to expand further to one in two households – has particular implications for Western Australia, which exists as its own network, separate from the NEM.

The question has been how to manage a distributed and largely uncontrolled and nearly invisible resource that will likely present a threat to grid stability without a proper integration plan.

The good news, as W.A. energy minister Bill Johnston told the recent Stimulus Summit, is that the state’s still publicly-owned gen-tailers and distribution network service providers can make their own decisions and “get on with it.”

“The only thing we would love is the ability to rely on someone else’s generation to balance our system, because we have to be 100 per cent self-reliant and we don’t have the ability to interconnect with anybody else,” Johnston said at during the Summit in the first week of May.

“So that means we have to solve our own problems. But at least we’re allowed to solve our own problems.”

The installation of community batteries is one of the key ways the government is getting on with it.

In the case of the Kalgoorlie-Bolder PowerBank, Synergy will recruit 50 eligible local customers via a partnership with Western Power, who will then be able to virtually store up to 8kWh a day of excess rooftop generation.

This allows those homes to draw electricity back from the PowerBank during the afternoon and evening peak – when their solar systems stop generating – without having stump up thousands of dollars for their own behind-the-meter battery storage system.

At the same time, their solar will be made visible to the network owners and operator, making it easier to manage daytime and peak-time load periods.

“The community battery program is another example of the McGowan Government creating a cleaner, greener energy future for Western Australians,” Johnston said in a statement this week.

“This exciting project demonstrates the growing number of opportunities for integrating batteries into an established network and highlights another aspect of the government’s Future Battery Industry Strategy at work.

“Thank you to Western Power and Synergy who continue to deliver innovative and important projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Beyond Kalgoorlie-Bolder, community batteries are also planned for installation in Canning Vale, Dunsborough, Ellenbrook, Leda, Parmelia, Port Kennedy, Singleton, Two Rocks, and Wanneroo – by the end of the year.

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