Western Power Pursuing Disconnected Microgrid Project

Western Power - Disconnected Microgrid

Western Power is seeking registrations of interest to develop its first renewables-based disconnected microgrid in either the Mid-West, Wheatbelt or Great Southern region of Western Australia.

WA Government owned Western Power builds, maintains and operates the electricity network within the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) in the south-west corner of the state, connecting more than 1.1 million customers.

Parts of its distribution network are approaching end-of-life and where small isolated rural towns are involved, this presents a costly challenge. These “fringe-of-grid” locations where power has to travel up to hundreds of kilometres through bare overhead lines can also have poor quality electricity supply as they are prone to impacts from trees and animals, lightning strikes, high winds and bushfires.

Instead of continuing with mains grid supply, stand-alone power systems and disconnected microgrids may not only be a cheaper solution, but will also be more reliable – and safer.

What Is A Disconnected Microgrid (DMG)?

A disconnected microgrid is one operating independently from the rest of the grid.  It involves renewables, often solar power, supported by a battery and diesel generator backup. Western Power says a DMG is similar to a stand-alone power system (SPS), but services more than 5 customers.

The utility has already seen success with its stand-alone power system rollout, and it now looking to bigger systems.

For this first disconnected microgrid project, the peak load is expected to be around 200 kW, but future projects are likely to be up to 600 kW peak. As for electricity consumption over a typical day, the solution will need to provide around 350 kWh, but during the grain season consumption could top 1 MWh per day.

Renewables And Local Focus

The project to win the guernsey won’t involve a thumping great diesel generator and a token amount of solar power. The vast majority of electricity generation will need to come from renewable sources – 90% or more.

Western Power will either own and operate the facility, with initial maintenance supplied by the provider; or the chosen provider will own, operate and maintain the system.

The first town to receive a disconnected microgrid is yet to be identified.

Registrations of interest in the proposed project will be accepted until January 7, 2022. Western Power will review submissions and the shortlisted registrants invited to submit an Expression of Interest and/or a Request for Proposal. Western Power says it will be targeting local businesses to promote growth in this emerging industry.

WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston said the initiative was an exciting opportunity for Western Australian businesses.

“The McGowan Government is committed to creating new jobs for Western Australians and exploring technological innovations that will help shape our State’s future power supply,” he stated. “Disconnected microgrids can provide low-carbon emission benefits and will help reach our target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Further information on the proposed disconnected microgrid project can be found here.

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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