Western Australian Awards Contract for Innovative Kalbarri Microgrid

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Western Power has awarded a contract for its innovative Kalbarri microgrid, which may offer a model for remote towns with feeder line problems.

The Western Australia state-owned utility chose partners Energy Made Clean (EMC), a microgrid developer, and Lendlease, an infrastructure group, to construct $6.8 million in generation for the project.

Kalbarri is plagued by electric reliability problems because a 90-mile feeder line serving the seaside community is pummeled by wind-born salt.

Kalbarri Microgrid

Kalbarri Microgrid, Courtesy of Western Power

Western Australian officials said that communities with similar problems may learn from Kalbarri.

“It is a game changer for regional communities who rely on power from a long feeder line, which is subject to environmental factors that can cause outages,” said Ben Wyatt, Western Australia energy minister. “The improved reliability for the region will boost the local tourism and retail operations, as well as enhance the lifestyle of residents.”

The utility sought expressions of interest for the microgrid in November 2016 after the tourist community experienced 19 significant outages in 12 months.

With 5-MW peak capacity, the Kalbarri microgrid will use wind and solar power, as well as a large-scale battery. The town will draw directly from the microgrid’s renewable sources during an outage.

Discussion with the community contributed to Western Power’s decision to choose renewables for the microgrid. Wyatt described the Kalbarri microgrid as one of Australia’s largeset 100 percent renewable microgrids.

The project’s 4.5 MWh battery will offer a minimum of 2 MWh at any time in back-up power. This includes periods when renewable energy is unavailable because of a sudden lull in wind or cloud cover.

To further ensure electric reliability, Kalbarri will remain connected to the main grid via a feeder line from Geraldton.

Construction is scheduled to start in November, and the microgrid is expected to be in operation by mid-2019.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.