Cattle farming WA town recognised for advanced distributed energy resource microgrid


Successfully integrating traditional thermal generation with solar PV and battery storage systems,  state government-owned utility provider Horizon Power was on Monday awarded the 2020 Australian Institute of Project Management Achievement Award in the category of Regional Projects for its Onslow Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Project.

The project, which Horizon says pushes the boundaries of how the energy sector currently operates, includes a 1MW centralised solar farm, a 1MWh battery bank, a modular gas power station with 8 MW of installed capacity, a 15km long 33kV transmission line, a zone substation, an extension to the 11kV town distribution network. The company told pv magazine Australia the project has proven that centralised assets, like the solar farm, utility batteries and gas power station, can operate in harmony with large scale customer based assets, like residential rooftop solar and battery storage, to distribute across the network.

The project, described by Horizon Power’s Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Unwin as “unchartered territory” required the company work closely with industry specialists, suppliers, contractors and, importantly, the community.

Horizon Power’s Onslow DER power station and solar farm was delivered with Engineering, Procurement and Construction Manager partner, GHD.

Horizon Power

In the town of just over 800 people, the community have been incentivised to install solar and battery technology in their homes as part of the project which has tested how renewable energy can be managed in isolated regional communities. 

“Horizon Power recognised some time ago that distributed energy resources held great potential for remote communities, particularly where traditional fuels such as diesel often contribute to a high cost to serve electricity,” Unwin said.

“The successful delivery of Onslow DER has enabled us to achieve one of the first instances of a business-as-usual approach to utility management of DER assets in Australia.”

That is, the project uses an end-to-end DER management system which includes mature technology and adopts a ‘best practice’ international standard. The approach contrasts the more blunt ‘zero export’ limitation measures enacted on constrained networks in response to the massive uptake of solar PV in Australia.

No easy feat, the project mitigates against rooftop solar’s intermittent power generation, as well as the issue of reverse power flow, by using an intelligent control software. Energy from multiple supplies has been coordinated in the project through automation and predictive scheduling of generation assets to optimise the fully automated DER network, with multiple technologies working in unison to create one orchestrated system.

Horizon’s Onslow power station, part of their Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Project.

Horizon Power

Horizon say the Onslow DER Project has brought forward a future where customers are recognised as being key to a greener energy future by helping inform the infrastructure and intelligent system controls which enable them to take a central role.

As one of the country’s most advanced microgrids, Horizon also believe the project is an ideal environment to integrate and test other energy technologies like electric vehicles and customer products and services.

“Through working with GHD on such a complex and unchartered project, Horizon Power is now in a position where Onslow DER is delivering a testing ground to prove technologies which will enable a high DER future by overcoming barriers to higher integration of renewable energy,” Horizon CEO Unwin said.

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