Western Power to roll out 57 stand-alone power systems at farms

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In what has been touted as Australia’s largest rollout of stand-alone systems (SPS) to date, Western Power is all set to roll out 57 power systems, which combine solar and battery technology with a backup generator.

The utility has partnered with two Perth-based companies, Hybrid Systems and BayWA r.e. Solar Systems, which have been awarded the lion’s share of Western Power’s $8.8 million SPS contracts in Round 1 of the program. Only one of the 57 project has been awarded to Victorian company Optimal Group, which is providing a specialized installation for a Water Corporation site.

According to its media release, Hybrid Systems will deliver the bulk of the systems, having been awarded a multi-million dollar contract for the supply, delivery, installation and operation of 49 of the 57 SPSs across regional WA.

The systems comprise 250 kW of solar panels, 220 kW of solar inverters and nearly 600 kWh of lithium battery energy storage coupled with a high efficiency diesel generator to enable back up power, the company said.

The roll out builds on a trial program launched at six farms in the Great Southern region of WA in 2016. There were on average 65 hours of outages avoided in its first year, and a whopping 92% of the properties’ power supply could be met by solar PV – buffered by battery storage.

Western Power moved on last March to announce that it was expanding the program ten-fold, launching a tender for up to 60 SPS systems within the South West Interconnected Network (SWIS).

The units are modular and scalable and range from less than 5 kwh, to supply electric fences and dam pumps, to 50 kwh for large-scale agricultural businesses. Once installed and commissioned, the ongoing servicing and operation of the SPS units will be provided by the vendors for a two-year period.

Servicing the 57 SPS units for their entire working life will save Western Power almost $6 million, compared to traditional network refurbishment, which would otherwise be needed to ensure reliable power supply to rural properties in off or edge-of-the grid areas. 

Faced with high energy costs and unreliable power supply with many farms connected through  long ‘skinny’ lines, Aussie farmers are eager to consider energy efficiency solutions on-farm. As demonstrated in a report from Commonwealth Bank released last year, solar power+battery back-up top the wish list for 76% of Australian farmers.

“Increasing regional reliability is a key focus for the Government, and I support the innovative solutions like SPS that Western Power is deploying for regional homes and businesses,“ Energy Minister Bill Johnston said in a statement.

“This announcement builds on the WA Future Battery Industry strategy, which shows the renewable energy industry is a massive opportunity for jobs in our State.”

The strategy to grow WA’s future battery industry was launched earlier in February, looking to rein in the state’s Li-ion battery manufacturing potential as one of the world’s largest producer of lithium and a leading producer of other battery metals including nickel, cobalt and rare earths.