Western Power, the state-owned company that operates the grid in the south-west corner of Western Australia, is looking to take small communities completely off grid so that it can save money on costly network upgrades and extensions.
Western Power this week proposed not more than ten stand-alone energy systems, using solar coupled with battery storage, plus back-up diesel, to take care of small communities around the Ravensthorpe region, around 500kms south-east of Perth.The network operator stated that it was looking to take small groups of customers – between 5 and 10 – off grid as are placement to “network replacement or significant refurbishment” at end-of-grid locations. More is intended to follow.
“For the pilot, five to 10 customers will be selected to be supplied from a stand-alone power system (SPS) within their property,” the company says in its tender document.
The consumers would keep their connection to the main electricity grid, called Western Australia as the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), as they wait for a successful outcome of the test. But the purpose of the project is to give a Stand-alone Power System that is technically “reliable, financially sound, modular and acceptable to the customer.”
Western Power is intended to test about 5 to 10 systems utilizing four different size systems. They will need to meet all the customer’s satisfaction and reduce life cycle costs over 20 years.
The sizes of the intended system range from 4.5 kW of solar to 20 kWh of storage, via to 18 kW of solar to 80 kWh of storage.
In other regional areas of the state, communities and businesses are already disconnecting from the grid, finding solar and battery storage to be affordable and less expensive technology. Related pilot projects are in the pipeline to betaken place in Queensland and South Australia, where the network operators accept that remote and regional towns might be better served by small renewable-focused micro-grids instead of connecting to the major electricity grid.