Western Australia’s first big battery delivered to Kalbarri microgrid

Western Australia’s very own Big Battery – at least, the first and largest yet to be installed on the state’s grid – has been dispatched to its destination in Kalbarri, where it will become the centrepiece of a solar and wind microgrid that promises to deliver much improved reliability than the local grid.

W.A.’s government-owned network operator Western Power said last week that the 5MW/2MWh battery had taken nearly a full day to load onto the trucks for transport, owing to its size of 25 metres long and 5m wide, and weight of 60 tonnes.

The battery will join a wind and solar micro-grid that Western Power hopes will boost reliability for Kalbarri, a resort town on the W.A. coast that suffers frequent outages because of its dependence on a wobbly link with centralised generation further south.

The 33kV line connecting Kalbarri, 500km north of Perth, to the rest of the grid is often affected by storms, wind-borne sea salt and sand, and can suffer extended outages.

In a statement last week, Western Power said the battery would be a key part of the microgrid’s design, supplying a minimum of 2MWh at any time when there was a network outage.

The project is being developed by Lendlease, who won the contract for the microgrid back in early 2018 along with former Carnegie Clean Energy subsidiary, Energy Made Clean.

But that partnership was reported to be under “separation negotiations” in April this year, following EMC’s dumping by Carnegie, which the wave power developer has largely blamed for its own financial collapse.

Fairfax Media reported that the joint venture between Lend Lease and EMC had resulted in significant losses on projects including the Northam Solar Power Station, Kalbarri, and the Summerhill solar plant for the City of Newcastle in NSW.

Lendlease submitted to administrators they were owed $6.2 million, but administrators received just four bids to purchase EMC with prices ranging from $40,000 to $200,000. Carnegie purchased EMC for $17.5 million in 2016.

Despite all of this, Western Power said last week that work to prepare Kalbarri for the microgrid “had been going on in the background,” including enhancements that would allow the network and battery to become islanded and draw directly from renewable sources during a network outage.

“The microgrid is an innovative solution that adds another level of certainty for the Kalbarri community, particularly during its peak tourism season where power demand almost doubles,” the utility said.

“The beauty of this design is that it not only enhances supply reliability, it will have the flexibility to grow with the population of Kalbarri, which in turn supports local businesses.

“We expect to complete construction of the microgrid, which includes the underground connection of the battery, by early 2020 with commissioning and operational trial completed later next year,” Western Power said.

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