Australian Town at Times Reaches 90% Renewables with Chevron-backed Microgrid

Nov. 27, 2019
The Western Australia town of Onslow says its solar and battery microgrid is helping to deliver more reliable and cleaner power — at levels of up to 90% renewables.

Sophie Gale from One Step of the Grid reports on a Chevron-backed microgrid in Western Australia that has significantly enhanced a town’s ability to use renewables.

Horizon Power’s poster child for the shift to a distributed renewable grid, the Western Australia (WA) Pilbara town of Onslow, says its solar and battery microgrid is already helping to deliver more reliable and cleaner power — at levels of up to 90% renewables.

The WA regional utility said on Tuesday that the newly commissioned 1 MW solar and battery microgrid had notched up some new milestones, including reliability testing, and the first stage of an intelligent control system.

The latter was being tested to ensure that the microgrid integrated effectively with the broader power system, once fully operational.

“We are achieving up to 90% of the power being delivered in Onslow coming from renewable sources with the commissioning of the solar and battery,” a company spokesperson said.  “However, this is not constant and depends on how much demand, time of the day, cloud cover, etc. The expected reduction in CO2 emissions is 820 tonnes a year.”

Seeking 100% renewables at certain times

“Before the commissioning of the solar and battery, we had 100% fossil fuel generation in the town and we are aiming to reach 100% of generation from renewable sources in the town, at certain times of the day and year, as an outcome of this pilot,” the spokesperson said. “We expect to achieve the highest levels of renewable energy penetration during the middle of the day in the cooler months.”

As we have reported on One Step, Horizon Power’s Renewable Energy Pilot in Onslow — the launching base for the massive Wheatstone LNG project owned by Chevron — combines a new 8 MW gas-fired power plant with distributed and utility-scale solar and battery storage.

Horizon Power built the gas plant in Onslow which was commissioned last year, and this year has delivered the solar farm and battery.

Onslow residents have meanwhile been incentivised to install solar and battery at their homes as part of the project which tests the management of renewable energy in an isolated regional community.

Horizon said this week that the microgrid control technology was now being used to reduce power fluctuations, increase power quality and coordinate power generation from gas plant with the solar farm and battery.

“The microgrid management technology is an amazing piece of technology…” — Horizon Power CEO Stephanie Unwin

“The benefit to the community from this stage of the project is more reliable, cleaner and greener power through the incorporation of utility grade solar and battery assets into the power infrastructure,” said Horizon CEO Stephanie Unwin in comments on Tuesday.

“The microgrid management technology is an amazing piece of technology that is new to this state and allows for the careful management of the various energy sources in the town,” she said.

Chevron funded microgrid

The solar and natural gas-powered microgrid was financially backed by Chevron, which has invested more than $250 million in social and critical infrastructure in the community of Onslow as part of its State Development Agreement.

“Investing in the power projects in Onslow means natural gas is partnering with renewables to deliver affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy for the town,” Chevron Australia’s Wheatstone Plant Manager Nigel Comerford said.

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This blog orginated on One Step off the Grid and has been republished with permission. The author, Sophie Gale, is the editor of One Step off the Grid.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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