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Kalbarri microgrid

Kalbarri’s laid-back lifestyle to be powered by 21st century solution

Tourists flock to Kalbarri to enjoy the natural environment but the remoteness of the coastal town provides a challenge to maintain a reliable power supply.

The Mid West town currently receives power via a 140km long rural feeder line from Geraldton which is exposed to the elements.

Interference on the line can cause extended outages.

This has a knock-on effect to local businesses – it’s hard to keep tourists happy when they can’t dine out, use the air conditioner (it gets hot up there!) or even take money out of the ATMs.

This is set to change in 2019.

Kalbarri will be powered by its own microgrid - a small-scale power grid which will also be connected to the main electricity network.

The microgrid features a 4.5MWh battery which will be able to supply 5MW of peak capacity with at least 2MWh of energy storage. Additional supply will be provided through renewable energy from residential rooftop solar and a local wind farm. The design allows for future renewable generation sources to be integrated as they become available.

At 5MW, it will be one of Australia’s largest microgrids to run in complete renewable mode, which means it can draw energy solely from the connected wind farm and feed-in from residential rooftop solar panels.

The microgrid will be designed and managed by Western Power and we have partnered with EMC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WA-based Carnegie Clean Energy, and Lend Lease to deliver the technical components.

When completed in 2019, the microgrid will deliver a more reliable supply to Kalbarri.

We are also reviewing how similar reliability solutions can help other regional towns in Western Australia.

We conducted a feasibility study which ran more than 2,500 models simulating various energy scenarios to determine the best solution for Kalbarri’s future energy needs.

What is a microgrid?

As the name suggests, a microgrid is a small-scale power grid.

These systems can operate independently and also have the ability to connect with the main electricity network, which means they must operate on the same voltage level.

Supplied by a number of different energy sources such as solar, wave and wind power, they usually have battery storage capabilities and a backup generator.

Unlike stand-alone power systems which are generally used for individual households, microgrids have the capacity to provide electricity for a whole community.

Traditionally, remote towns that have been connected to the main electricity network get their power via long feeder lines which are vulnerable to interference from the elements.

Microgrids can increase the reliability of service to isolated towns because they bring much of the energy production process closer to where the power will be used.

By storing power in batteries, microgrids can use most of the energy they produce.

Having the ability to connect to the main electricity network and a microgrid provides a sense of comfort; knowing there is always a reliable power supply.