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Powering the whole farm

How three stand-alone units can power a whole farm

Tania and Alan Willmott’s wheat and sheep farm, 20 minutes out of Tambellup, is criss-crossed with power poles and wires.

The property has several transformers, each fed by the requisite poles and wires, making them something of a feature of the property's landscape.

"They also create quite a bit of upkeep", says Tania Willmott.

“Pole top fires are a big concern for us, and we’ve got to do maintenance around the poles, to trim the bushes, trees and grass. Particularly the ones right near the house, to reduce the grass and keep the fire risk down.”

Power outages are a common feature of life on the farm, “particularly when we get a bit of drizzle, then the power can go out for at least a day,” says Tania.

As the Willmott's property is at the end of the line, it often takes longer for faults to be rectified.

“At least once a year we get a decent one where it goes out for a few days. Because of that we had a generator connected up to the house.”

This could be about to change with the Willmott's getting three new stand-alone power systems on the property as part of the current roll-out of SPS units across regional WA.

Each unit will create its own power through solar panels, a battery and a traditional back-up generator, replacing the need for poles and wires to each location.

“Every meter we have on the farm is getting an SPS unit, so there is one at the main shed which includes the shearing shed, the workers quarters and at the house.

“Western Power spent a bit of time working out how much power is needed at each spot and how many solar panels would be needed. The SPS unit at the house is the biggest as this is where we use the most power.

“But each unit should be big enough to do its job, and able to cope with things like welding and the shearing shed too.”

Tania says her longer term hope is that the poles and wires will come down.

“The poles will have to stand for a while, just in case, but if the SPS units prove effective, they could consider removing them.

“That would mean that we will have no more interruptions of power, no worry about pole top fires and less maintenance, overall.

“As well as not having to tidy up around the poles, we don’t need to touch the SPS units. Western Power even come out to check and fill up the back-up generator for us, so we don’t need to touch anything.”