Kalbarri, a remote town on WA’s Mid-West coast, has always had trouble maintaining a reliable power supply. Currently, the town receives power via a 140km long feeder line from Geraldton. However, in 2020, with the aid of the state’s largest battery, the town is set to be powered by its own microgrid.
The 5MW battery building is 25 metres long, five metres wide and weighs just shy of 60 tonnes. It took almost a full day’s work to get the big thing on the back of a truck, but once the battery arrives in Kalbarri it will live at the centre of a microgrid that will provide energy security to a town that endures frequent network troubles.
Once installed, the battery can supply a minimum of 2MWh during a network outage, and 5MW at peak capacity. Additional supply comes from residential rooftop solar installations and a local wind farm. Importantly, the design allows for new renewable generation to integrate seamlessly into the evolving microgrid.
The Kalbarri microgrid is set to be one of Australia’s largest and runs entirely on renewable sources.
Kalbarri’s natural beauty attracts tourists from across Australia, providing the locals with an integral industry. However, the instability of the network has made it difficult to sustain the industry, let alone allow it to thrive. Power outages wreak havoc on restaurants, local businesses are stifled by their customer’s inability to use ATM machines, and no tourist is too freewheeling when they get back from a long day in the hot sun and find that their air conditioner is kaput.
Local resident Christine Holt says the network failures leave a “bad taste” in the mouths of many visitors who would like to return to such a beautiful area but are turned off by the backwardness of the facilities.
If the Kalbarri microgrid project continues to land successfully in each progressing stage, it will only mean that similar towns with similar reliability issues can expect their own microgrids. Western Power is already reviewing new regional sites. As John Simpson of Western Power put it, “it’s the way of the future.”