As debate continues to rage about the best national policy framework for Australia’s energy network, West Australian utility Horizon Power is investigating solutions on a smaller, but no less promising, scale.
Horizon Power managing director Frank Tudor said the company is in the process of establishing a distributed energy microgrid — a discrete local energy network with its own demand management, storage and generation — in the remote Pilbara town of Onslow.
Speaking ahead of his appearance at the 2017 International Mining and Resources Conference, Mr Tudor said microgrids have the potential to be the model for the future of Australia’s energy network.
“The Onslow microgrid is about establishing a small scale energy network that provides the community with significant energy independence,” he said.
“The Onslow microgrid will be comprised of a gas-fired power plant, utility-scale solar, and distributed solar and battery technology across the community.
“The utility-scale power will be connected to the community, and the distributed solar and batteries will all be connected to each other.
“It not only means Onslow’s power supply will be more self-sufficient, it will also be more resilient.
“If, for example, extreme weather affects the operations of the gas plant, the microgrid will still be served by energy from the solar and battery storage systems, allowing customers to enjoy uninterrupted power over the period.
“Given the increasing incidence of catastrophic weather events this energy resilience has enormous potential.”
Once complete, Onslow’s microgrid will be one of the most significant in the southern hemisphere, Mr Tudor said.
“The beauty of a location like Onslow is that it allows us to test a range of technical, regulatory and pricing models in an isolated environment,” he said.
Mr Tudor said the microgrid model had the potential to be rolled out across the country.
“There’s almost no limit to what microgrids could do to revolutionise Australia’s energy sector and energy supply to the mining industry he said.
“The frequent changes within each microgrid are too dynamic to be controlled at a national, or even state, level, but what we could see is coordination between an Australia-wide network of microgrids.”
Mr Tudor will speak at IMARC as part of the Future Energy conference on Thursday, November 2.