Four landowners in the bushfire affected WA town of Esperance have chosen to go off-grid, using stand-alone solar plus battery storage systems and back-up diesel generators – a dedicated renewable energy system provided by their network operator, Horizon Power.
Horizon decided to take the pioneering approach to remote energy supply after bushfires destroyed more than 320 power poles and hundreds of kilometres of power lines in the region last November.
While most of Horizon’s efforts have been directed at redeveloping the network – power was restored to more than 400 customers within 10 days of the fires – managing director Frank Tudor said a more innovative approach made better sense for some of the more susceptible parts of the network.
“We identified that instead of rebuilding this part of the network …we could offer these customers a dedicated renewable energy power system which is not connected to the grid,” Tudor said.
The systems will be owned and operated by Horizon, and will cost the customers the same amount they paid when their power had been supplied by the grid.
“While the units won’t be connected to the network, customers will receive the same service standards as those who are – including being able to call and rely on Horizon Power to respond to any unplanned power interruptions,” Tudor said.
For at least one of the farmers taking up Horizon’s trial offer, the expectation is that the new renewable source will be an improvement on his previous power supply.
“I saw it as an opportunity to have something more than we had ever hoped for,” said Rodney Locke from his Cape Le Grande property, one of hundreds that lost power during the fires.
“A reliable, clean energy source will deliver even better service than we had in the past. …It won’t be affected by outages caused by maintenance on the network or weather-related events.”