In 2016, six regional families signed up to receive their energy in a new way, harnessing technology not previously used on our network.
The trial of stand-alone power systems (SPS) was designed to improve these customers’ power reliability and be a better value alternative than rebuilding the aging poles and wires in the region.
The solar-battery-diesel systems exceeded expectations, providing excellent customer satisfaction and significantly improved power reliability. The SPS trial established a demonstrable blueprint for improving regional power supplies using renewable electricity systems and saving money on network infrastructure.
But could it be done at scale? Stage 2 of our stand-alone power system trial offers a true alternative for regional customers who – for too long – have been at the mercy of wind, fire and other environmental factors that have caused frequent or extended power outages.
Powering up in regional Western Australia
Stage 1 of our stand-alone power system trial was limited to six properties in the Great Southern region.
Stage 2 will supersize the trial, with the inclusion of up to 60 SPS units across regional WA.
By trialling systems in multiple geographical locations over a three year period, we will better understand how they operate under varying regional environmental conditions.
Participants will also come from a more varied energy consumption background, allowing us to trial a more diverse set of SPS configurations and sizes.
60 possible locations have been identified by our planners as meeting the criteria to be a SPS trial participant. These 60 locations are serviced by 258 kilometres of overhead powerlines. That’s nearly 4.5 kilometres of powerline per property – all of which needs to be replaced at significant cost within the next 10 years.
Energy Minister Ben Wyatt launched stage 2 of the stand-alone power system trial in March 2018. He also requested the Public Utilities Office to identify regulatory changes that will allow greater use of SPS as a low cost solution to poles and wires in delivering more reliable services in regional areas. This change is essential to rolling out SPS units on a larger scale.
Trial participants will be confirmed during the first half of 2018, followed by the procurement process to select commercial partners to build, supply, operate and maintain the 60 new systems.
We expect the systems to be on the ground in regional WA in 2019, and all to be fully operational by mid-2019.
The success of our first SPS trial has resulted in strong interest by regional families and businesses who would love to have their own system. For the purposes of this trial, we have identified the potential participants based on; where single or clusters of customers are sitting on long, aging spur lines which are due for replacement; and their annual energy consumption patterns.
So while you cannot nominate yourself for a SPS, if this second trial further demonstrates the effectiveness of these systems - and at larger scale – then we may see these systems as a standard part of our service offering in the future.
What is a spur line?
An overhead powerline that branches off a rural feeder and supplies power to a small number of customers, often over long distances.