Solar And Battery Upgrade For Mount Frankland Communications Tower

Mount Frankland solar upgrade

Image: Western Power

After 20 years of service in what were probably at times pretty harsh conditions, the solar panels and batteries at Western Power’s communications tower at Mount Frankland needed replacing . It wasn’t an easy task.

Situated in the Walpole Region of Western Australia, Mount Frankland is big lump of granite topping out at 411 metres 1. It’s one of the highest points in Western Power’s telecommunications network and there’s no vehicle access to the summit.

Two lucky Western Power telecommunications technicians and two riggers were appointed the task of hoofing it to the summit to dismantle the existing equipment and install the new solar panels and batteries. Western Power used the term “to scale the summit”, which makes the ascent sound quite dramatic, but it turns out there’s a short (but steep) sealed path that runs halfway to the top – and then stairs.

Anyway, thankfully the workers weren’t also made to carry the gear, which weighed more than 300 kilograms. That was loaded into a cargo net and transported to the site via helicopter, which also picked up the old equipment.

While the exercise wasn’t exactly a walk in the park2, it wasn’t quite as manually intensive as a project in the Himalayas where batteries and panels were carried by villagers and pack animals over a period of days.

With any luck, it should be another 20 years at least before the solar panels need replacing again. Most solar panels these days are accompanied by a 25-year performance warranty3. Sorry, no specs were provided on the old or new system.

Solar power has had a long association with telecommunications in Australia. It was way back in 1974 that Telecom Australia (now as known Telstra) began using solar panels to power remote area telecommunications.

In other solar news relating to Western Power, Wanneroo Times reports the company is trialing solar street lights in the Perth suburb of Madeley while it undertakes repairs to cables in the street. Western Power usually uses diesel generators to power large floodlights in such situations.

“We know from experience no one wants a noisy generator on their front lawn while they try to sleep,” said Head of network maintenance planning Zane Christmas.

Similar trials will be held in other locations and Western Power will be seeking feedback from residents and businesses to evaluate the success (or otherwise) of the solar street lights.

Footnotes

  1. 371 metres according to Western Power
  2. Literally speaking it actually was – Mount Frankland National Park
  3. A performance warranty is different to a product warranty – it’s a somewhat murky area that SQ’s Ronald has covered on a number of occasions.
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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