Landmark moment as Pilbara town powered 100% by solar PV and battery

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Onslow in Western Australia’s Pilbara region has become the largest town in Australia to be powered by 100% renewable energy, achieving the landmark moment during a successful demonstration of the Onslow Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Project.

State-owned regional utility Horizon Power successfully powered the community, home to more than 800 people, for a total of 80 minutes with renewable energy during a trial of the microgrid late last month.

Electricity was powered by 600 KW of utility solar PV and 700 KW of rooftop solar, supported by battery technology while an intelligent control system known as a Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) was utilised to unlock the microgrid’s potential.

Western Australia Energy Minister Bill Johnston said the successful trial was a landmark moment in the state’s energy transition.

“The operation of the Onslow microgrid powered by 100% renewables signifies a landmark step towards building a cleaner, brighter, renewable energy future for our state,” he said.

“This innovative project demonstrates how distributed energy resources can be safely integrated at the grid level, unlocking further benefits from Western Australia’s world-leading rooftop solar uptake.”

Onslow, on the WA coast about 1,400kms north of Perth, has a population of 848 people

Image: Horizon Power

The Onslow project, which replaced diesel- and gas-fired generators, was initiated in 2016.  Stage 1 delivered a modular gas power station with 8 MW of installed capacity and associated infrastructure. Stage 2 saw the completion of a centralized 1 MW centralised solar PV farm and a 1 MWh battery storage system.

The microgrid also incorporates rooftop solar and residential batteries with the residents of the town having been incentivised to install solar and battery technology in their homes as part of the project.

The high uptake of renewables by the Onslow community enabled Horizon Power to effectively pilot the DERMS which manages the assets connected to its networks in a coordinated way.

The microgrid incorporates large-scale and rooftop PV with battery storage.

Image: Horizon Power

The software solution, provided by PXiSE Energy Solutions, uses predictive analytics to maximise the amount of renewable energy in the microgrid while maintaining network stability for all customers.

The technology allowed Horizon to turn the gas generators at the power station off during the trial and power the Onslow community by coordinating the rooftop solar with the solar farm and large-scale batteries.

It is the first time the DERMS has been deployed in a remote microgrid in Australia. Further testing of the system is set to continue ahead of commissioning the project later this year.

Horizon has previously said 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.

Horizon also believe the project is an ideal environment to integrate and test other energy technologies like electric vehicles and customer products and services.

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