SPS reaffirms its lead in the race to transform energy in rural WA


Stand-alone power systems (SPS) made up of solar panels, batteries and a back-up generator, have come through three years of trials in the Great Southern of Western Australia (WA) with flying colours. 

Remote areas, often inhabited by just a few people, are connected to the grid via long powerlines at the mercy of interruptions and natural events. In 2016, Western Power, WA’s publicly owned grid operator, decided to trial six SPS on properties across the Great Southern, including Lake King, West Lake and Ongerup. The trial sought to determine whether SPS could provide customers with a more reliable, and better quality, power supply. 

“There’s been two winners from this trial,” says SPS Program Manager Margot Hammond. “Firstly, the customers, who have more reliable and better quality power,” mainly provided by solar. And secondly, “the taxpayers of WA Now that this technology has demonstrated the significant benefits for customers, it could be utilised throughout our rural and regional parts of the network as a cost-effective alternative to replacing poles and wires.” 

Of course, before that decision can be made, a regulatory change is required, but the evidence, at least, is in. Hammond estimated this could save the State “millions.” 

According to Western Power the trial has succeeded all expectations: 

· Customers have each avoided a total of over 200 hours power interruptions over the past three years

· For customers, outages dropped dramatically, with them avoiding an average 71 hours of outages a year

· More than 90 per cent of power generated for the SPS’s came from solar, meaning the properties became even more ‘green’

· Out of 10, customer satisfaction went from less than six pre-trial, to over nine with SPS in place

The customers are not the only excited individuals. Hammond waxed, “To be able to shift those customers perspectives about Western Power and the serve they are receiving so dramatically was really heartening.” 

“…we now know that SPS’s are a real opportunity for us to create more reliable power for many rural customers in WA and will play a real role in the future of our grid,” Hammond declared. 

Thanks to the success of the trial, Western Power has already begun deploying a new round of 57 SPS units in rural WA, from Mullewa in the north to Bodallin in the east and Cranbrook in the south. 

“This new round of deployments will be the largest ever undertaken in Australia, which means we will be able to learn even more about our customer’s experiences and potentially the SPS systems,” said Hammond. 

The sooner the SPS systems are deployed the sooner Australians in remote areas can cease to worry about being at the mercy of single transmission lines and grid intermittency. They will be self-sufficient. 

“Longer-term,” continued Hammond, “we estimate SPS technology could save the WA government hundreds of millions in infrastructure costs in costly upgrades of poles and wires for the end of the line customers. So, even though the power is going to our rural customers, all of WA is set to benefit from SPS’s.” 

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