Western Power to add another 100 stand-alone solar and battery systems


Western Australia has unveiled plans to roll out another 100 solar and battery-based stand-alone power systems in sparsely populated regional areas of the state, in part two of a new approach to fringe-of-grid power supply.

State government-owned network operate Western Power said the systems – a combination of solar PV and battery technology with a backup generator – would be installed in the Mid-West, Goldfields, eastern Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions.

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.

The same company appears to be involved again, with state energy minister Bill Johnston noting that the new round of installations would boost Hybrid Systems’ employee numbers from seven to 29, including six apprentices.

“The McGowan government is committed to revitalising our energy sector, and ensuring our system provides reliable and safe power, while utilising new and emerging technologies,” Johnston said in a statement.

“Stand-alone power systems provide an economical alternative to replacing poles and wires in many low population density rural areas.

Johnston says that to further support the state’s new approach to power supply he was working to drive legislative change through the Electricity Industry Amendment Bill 2019, inclduing provisions for the use of new technologies in Western Power’s network – particularly stand-alone power systems and energy storage devices.

The move by the W.A. government follows the publication of a report last week, that found the state had the potential to become a global leader in renewable energy microgrid development and export – but only with the right policy support and regulatory settings.

The comprehensive 239-page report was delivered on Friday as the final word from the Western Australian Parliamentary Inquiry Into Microgrids and Associated Technologies in the state.

It found that renewable energy based microgrids offered a wide range of benefits uniquely suited to Western Australia’s unwieldily and notoriously costly electricity system, including “reliable, dispatchable energy” supply and as a grid balancing resource.

They’re also an economic win-win, thanks to the low cost of renewable energy generation and the ability of microgrids to reduce total system costs by deferring, reducing or entirely removing the need to invest in new and costly poles and wires.

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