Western Power to retrain staff with standalone solar hybrid system skills 

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With a rapidly changing energy system, the retraining of electricians and technicians for a distributed, renewable future is becoming an increasingly important prerogative. Western Power is working with vocational training provider TAFE to equip its workers with the skills required to install and deliver standalone solar+storage systems. 

Both Western Power and WA’s regional utility Horizon Power have rolled out programs to deliver farms and remote communities with electricity via standalone solar PV and battery arrays. Not only are the systems less polluting, often replacing diesel generators, but they can also deliver cheaper power and can be more reliable. 

Many remote parts of the SWIN involve a small number of households being supplied by a single, very long power line. These lines can often be brought down by tree branches, potentially causing fires and frequent power outages. Rolling Western Power crews, often many hundreds of kilometres, to fix downed lines is expensive and response times slow.  

The new Western Power and TAFE program will train technicians to install, maintain and also detect and respond to faults in standalone power systems. Two courses have been created by North Metropolitan TAFE in Perth: SPS Familiarisation and Repair and Maintain SPS.

Western Power defines a Standalone Power System (SPS) as a solar and battery storage system that has the storage capacity to provide a homestead or remote community with power for two days. SPS are frequently coupled with a backup diesel generator. 

The most recent SPS program announced by Western Power was a $8.8 million program to deliver 57 systems across remote parts of the SWIN. In this case, the systems involved 250 kW of solar combined with nearly 600 kWh of lithium-ion battery storage. WA solar companies Hybrid Systems and BayWa r.e. Solar Systems were selected by Western Power to install the systems. 

The SPS training program was announced today by WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston and Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery.