Solar plus storage better than grid connection for remote households

The Western Australian government has praised the use of solar and batteries to provide power to remote households and businesses, after Western Power replaced costly 230km of costly grid connections with stand-alone power systems that slashed costs and improved reliability.

The deployment of 52 stand alone power systems by Western Power has now been completed, enabling it to remove around 230km of overhead powerlines. was able to avoid the costly replacement of around 230 kilometres of overhead powerlines.

The stand-alone power systems (SAPS) combined various amounts of solar, battery storage and a back-up diesel generator, all depending on the customer needs and consumption, and was spread across dozens of homes in Western Australia’s Mid-West region (north of Perth), the Goldfields, the eastern Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions.

In remote areas, maintaining a connection to the main grid can require kilometres of vulnerable poles and wires, that are comparatively expensive to maintain, and can leaves homes and businesses without power for days at a time if the lines are damaged.

The falling costs of solar power and battery storage now mean it can be cost effective to replace expensive poles and wires with onsite solar and storage. Networks in the eastern states, particularly in NSW, are being encouraged to do the same under new rules that allow the practice, and new industry incentives that will penalise networks for not maintaining power.

The removal of the powerlines will also improve land amenity for farmers whose land they had passed through, as well as reducing the risk of bushfires triggered by falling lines.

The roll out of 52 SAPS followed an initial trial undertaken by Western Power that saw an initial group of six households receive stand-alone power systems in 2016. The trial exceeded expectations, with more than 200 hours of power interruptions avoided over the course of a three-year trial.

In Wansbrough, Western Power will also trial the use of a microgrid, with two premises served by a single stand alone power system, allowing power to be shared between the two premises without needing to be connected to WA’s main grid.

“Stand-alone power systems are a cost-effective and innovative approach to providing power to WA’s regional customers,” Western Australian energy minister Bill Johnston said.

“Using SAPS is part of the McGowan Government’s commitment to providing reliable and safe power to our customers that are on the fringe of the grid.

“We have made significant headway in transitioning towards a low carbon future with the recent release of the Whole of System Plan, DER Roadmap, the big battery and commissioning of SPS technology,” Johnston added.

Following earlier trials conducted by Western Power, the Western Australian government amended relevant legislation to allow households and businesses to be served by stand alone power systems when more cost effective than maintaining grid connections.

The successful roll out of stand-alone power systems could lead to a much wider roll out, with Western Power having previously identified around 15,000 customers that could benefit by being taken off-grid.

Michael Mazengarb