Green light for WA’s Kalbarri renewables microgrid

Western Power to oversee construction of Kalbarri microgrid

After suffering years of power outages, a microgrid project incorporating solar, wind and storage will restore reliability to residents living in Kalbarri, WA.

The popular tourist town currently relies on electricity delivered via a 140km rural feeder line from Geraldton. Interference to this line can cause extended blackouts. In 2014, Kalbarri recorded more than 80 outages over a three-month period.

However, Western Power, Carnegie Clean Energy and Lendlease have partnered to design and build the 5 MW microgrid system.

The project’s 4.5 MWh battery can supply up to 5 MW of peak capacity, with 2.5 MWh of additional storage. This would give Kalbarri around two hours’ power when renewable generation is not available.

The standalone system will receive power from local rooftop solar and the nearby Kalbarri wind farm. And its design allows more renewable energy sources to be integrated as they become available.

Western Power has approved a 1 MW solar thermal plant that will connect to Kalbarri, firming supply to the new microgrid.

Kalbarri microgrid one of nation’s largest to run in 100% renewable mode

Kalbarri microgrid Western Power

Kalbarri microgrid project incorporating solar, wind and storage. Image: Western Power

Unlike other microgrids, which rely on backup generation sources like diesel engines, the Kalbarri system will be powered by 100 per cent renewables. The town will, however, remain connected to South West Integrated Network via the feeder line from Geraldton.

WA Energy Minister Ben Wyatt said the $6.8 million project, once built, would become a test case for other microgrids in remote communities.

“It is a game changer for regional communities who rely on power from a long feeder line,” he said.

“The improved reliability for the region will boost the local tourism and retail operations, as well as enhance the lifestyle of residents.”

Microgrids are the future for WA

Mr Wyatt said a major percentage of the state’s electricity costs came from servicing people living on the fringe of grid networks.

He said rolling out a network of microgrids could boost tourism and retail operations in remote communities.

Western Power chief executive Guy Chalkley said the Kalbarri project was a “step into the future”.

Construction of the Kalbarri microgrid will begin later this year. Western Power claims the system will be fully operational by mid-2019.