Western Australia’s rollout of solar-based standalone power systems has continued into 2022 sizzling hot. State-owned electricity company Horizon Power on Monday announced it had installed another 19 standalone power systems (SPS) units just east of Esperance, with another 26 to be operational in the region by March.
SPS units are powered predominantly by solar coupled with battery storage, though they also include a diesel generator. Western Australia, in all its vastness, has embraced the off-grid systems wholeheartedly.
For the state, the systems are not only cleaner, but are also substantially cheaper and easier to maintain over their lifetime than the traditional poles and wires connected to a centralised generator setup.
The state has successfully installed hundreds of similar units in the last five years, with the McGowan government pledging to install 1,000 more during its re-election campaign last March.
The total 45 units to be installed in Esperance will be delivered by Horizon Power and its state-owned partner Boundary Power as part of a $10 million state government ‘Renew the Regions’ program.
Horizon Power says the installations will result in many large, commercial farms at the fringes of the company’s overhead network transitioning to off-grid power. According to Horizon, SPS units have proven “very attractive” to farmers operating large equipment since they no longer need to navigate around electrical infrastructure during seeding and harvesting.
So far, the rollout of SPS has enabled over 200 kilometres of powerlines to be removed from private paddocks. Horizon Power’s next rollout will result in an additional 120 kilometres being removed.
Standalone power systems were first installed in Esperance, however, in response to an entirely different, though particularly Australian hazard: bushfires. In 2015, bushfires in the region destroyed electricity infrastructure. In response, off-grid units were deployed. These proved more reliable electricity generators for customers, and also decreased the risk of fires caused by farming machinery connecting with the overhead networks.
Horizon Power has been allocated $45.8 million to install 150 SPS systems in regional Western Australia over the next three years.
The remaining 850 government-pledged SPS systems will be delivered by Western Power over five years. Western Power is also government-owned, though it focuses on providing electricity to customers in WA’s main grid, the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), while Horizon focuses on the state’s regions and remote communities.
Western Power estimates it could rollout more than 6,000 SPS units in its service area in the coming decades. Likewise, Horizon is putting the off-grid model at the centre of its vision for its future network.
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