Western Australia Microgrid Moves Town Away from Diesel with Wind and Batteries

June 18, 2021
One Step Off The Grid’s Sophie Vorrath describes an innovative Western Australia microgrid that is reducing a coastal town’s reliance on diesel.
One Step Off The Grid’s Sophie Vorrath describes an innovative Western Australia microgrid that is reducing a coastal town’s reliance on diesel.

The remote Western Australia coastal town of Coral Bay is chipping away at its reliance on diesel fuel for power with the addition of a 576kW/343kWh lithium-ion battery system to the community’s existing wind-based microgrid.

The battery energy storage system was installed by local WA company Hybrid Systems Australia, a specialist integrated renewables subsidiary of Pacific Energy that is, in turn, owned by the Queensland government-owned QIC.

The battery joins three 275-kW wind turbines and, in combination with Pacific Energy’s control systems, will work to turn off all diesel power generation when renewable generation is sufficient and then seamlessly re-engage it when required.

According to Hybrid Systems executive director Mike Hall, the configuration of the wind and battery-based microgrid will mean that it can meet the power needs of the community entirely with zero-emissions renewables, given the right weather conditions.

“We are very pleased to have been involved in this innovative project which met the objectives of Synergy and Horizon Power to reduce emissions and improve reliability for the town of Coral Bay through our integrated Lithium BESS solution,” Hall said in a statement.

“This project is also in line with our own business objective of providing the latest in energy technology to address the challenges experienced by regional and remote customers by delivering high penetration renewable energy solutions and, at the same time, improving reliability of supply,” he said.

This is not the first time Coral Bay has been at the cutting edge of microgrid technology. Wind turbines were first installed in the northwestern coastal town back in 2007, at that time using special two-blade, tilt-up Vergnet turbines that could be lowered in the event of a cyclone.

The rest of the microgrid, which was built through a partnership between WA utility Horizon Power and Verve Energy, included seven 320-kW low-load diesel generators, which could be operated as low as 10% of rated power, enabling a high penetration of wind energy.

Keeping the balance between the turbines and the diesel back in 2007 was a solution from Hitachi ABB that consisted of a 500-kW inverter-based PowerStore with flywheel energy storage capability. That microgrid-stabilizing role will now largely be played by Hybrid Systems’ battery and management software.

Hybrid Systems has itself been at the leading edge of microgrid development in Australia, particularly in WA, whose vast geography demands high numbers of remote and off-grid power solutions for both communities and the state’s booming mining industry.

Just this year Hybrid Systems was awarded a contract to develop and install five BESS units  across regional towns for Horizon Power, including Carnarvon, Marble Bar and Yungngora, while fellow Pacific Energy subsidiary Contract Power’s existing power purchase agreements with Horizon have been expanded to integrate BESS into Wiluna and Yalgoo.

In the mining sector, Hybrid Systems last year enabled an open-cut kaolin clay mine and geological waste repository in the Goldfields-Esperance region to be powered by renewable energy only during daylight hours, thanks to a solar and battery storage system custom built for the project through a power purchase agreement.

Sophie Vorrath is editor of One Step Off The Grid and deputy editor of its sister site, Renew Economy. This article was reposted with permission.
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