New technology and a fresh approach to designing and building the electricity network is enabling Western Power to provide customers with better power reliability and prevent the need to build and maintain costly lines.
Power reliability is an ongoing concern for remote towns serviced by long stretches of powerlines, which are at the mercy of wind, rain, vegetation and lightning.
These long powerlines – many that stretch several kilometres to service a single property – served a purpose when they were built decades ago, but this is no longer the case.
Hundreds of kilometres of these costly poles and wires are coming up for renewal.
Enter stand-alone power systems.
In the southern towns of Ravensthorpe, Lake King, West Lake and Ongerup, we gave six households a system as part of a year-long trial.
Each system included solar panels, a battery, an inverter (to convert DC to AC) and a backup diesel generator.
In addition to day-to-day use, the battery had enough storage to provide two days’ supply of electricity.
If the sun doesn’t come out for more than two days, the backup generator kicks in to provide power.
12 months in: Stand-alone power systems prove a winner
After the first 12 months, the trial has been a major success. The results speak for themselves:
We have identified thousands of customers who could benefit from stand-alone power systems over the next decade, greatly improving their power reliability and preventing the need to upgrade millions of dollars’ worth of poles and wires – saving the State money.
While, current regulations prevent us from rolling out these systems to more customers, we have extended the current trial for a further three years while we work with regulators to amend the rules to enable better energy solutions for our customers.
The initial trial has successfully demonstrated that supplying stand-alone power systems to remote locations can be a more cost-efficient way of supplying electricity compared to maintaining expensive network infrastructure.
And most importantly, customers love the improved power reliability.
“It’s more reliable. We haven’t had to worry about getting the generator going.” – Ros, West River.
During local floods in February 2017, the stand-alone power systems continued to supply uninterrupted power, while other areas experienced outages due to damage on the network.
Stand-alone power systems are not connected to the main electricity network but could be an option for those on the fringe of the network.
They use a combination of decentralised electricity generation and a battery to provide enough electricity to supply a single property.
The system is most likely to consist of solar panels, a battery, an inverter and a backup diesel generator.
The size of the system can be matched to the power use of the property to ensure it is fit for purpose.
These systems are a good solution in instances where homes are isolated and serviced by very long stretches of powerlines.
Long lines in country areas are more exposed to wind, rain, vegetation and lightning, and are more likely to experience interference.