Rooftop solar will become more accessible for regional Western Australians following changes to Horizon Power’s hosting capacity limits in a number of towns. As of next month, the state government-owned utility will boost the capacity of a number of its microgrids and make it possible to connect an additional 10 MW of small scale renewable energy systems.
While interest in installing solar among its customers has surged, Horizon Power has not been able to greenlight new installations out of grid stability concern. However, a change in technical requirements, knowledge gained from recent trials and advances in technology have led to the regional utility’s decision to review hosting capacity limits so that more rooftop solar could be incorporated.
“There is a growing demand among our customers to install rooftop solar,” Horizon Power’s Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Unwin said. “Our customers are wanting more sustainable, affordable energy options and this is just one of the ways in which we are meeting this demand.”
Among the towns that will benefit from Horizon Power’s changes are the regional centres of Karratha, Port Hedland, Broome, Kununurra, Derby, Carnarvon and Esperance. “Hosting capacity limits differ from town to town for many technical reasons, including the energy needs of the town and the amount of renewable energy already connected to the system,” Unwin said, noting that the hosting capacity limit for each town reflects the level of renewable energy that can safely connect to the grid without compromising the reliability of supply to the entire network.
Full details of Horizon Power’s changes to hosting capacity limits and the new technical requirements for solar connection applications will be released on the utility’s website on 1 July. Customers will also be able to assess their eligibility for rooftop solar and apply for a solar connection via the website.
“It is welcome news for regional customers, some of whom have been waiting for close to a decade to install rooftop solar panels,” said WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston. “Rooftop solar and batteries play a key role in shaping the future of the State’s energy system. It is estimated that up to half of all electricity could be generated by consumers over the next few decades.”
Horizon Power’s review of hosting capacity limits is part of the state government’s Energy Transformation Strategy launched earlier this year in response to the energy sector’s transition from coal to renewables and distributed energy resources. The strategy aims to enhance power system security and enable new, largely renewable generators to access Western Power’s network.