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Charging up for electric vehicles in WA

With some of the coolest brands around, Electric Vehicles (EV’s) have been on the ‘most-wanted’ list for some time now. And this will only increase the interest in EV uptake.

The grid is experiencing a record amount of energy flowing in from rooftop solar panels. So it makes sense that the energy generated through your home’s solar panels can be used to cheaply charge up your electric vehicle.

The launch of the WA Government’s Electric Vehicle Plan is the next step to an EV reality, with a fast-charging electric network from Kununurra all the way to Esperance, and east from Perth to Kalgoorlie to be built by 2024.

With 45 EV charging stations proposed across WA, it will be the longest electric vehicle highway in Australia

With every station to be around 200km gap between each other, it would mean the end of range anxiety for EV drivers. For Western Power, the announcement of the new EV network means action stations!

“As the grid operator, it’s our responsibility to facilitate the connection of EV charging infrastructure to the SWIS. This includes residential chargers to dedicated fast chargers which will be the petrol stations of the future,” says Tony Law, Principal Engineer at Western Power for Grid Vision.

“As our transport becomes electrified, this is a huge shift in our use of power in everyday life, and it’s up to us to make sure the grid is able to meet the future needs of the community.”

Plotting out the EV charging stations in WA

Work is already underway with Synergy to identify and assess the potential locations for the charging stations along the new EV highway network.

“At each potential charging site, we will need to assess what the impact to the grid might be and how we can provide the connection in the most cost-efficient manner,” says Tony.

“Given we are at the beginning of a huge change, we’re also looking at how to strategically meet the needs of an EV future. So we’re running a number of modelling scenarios to see what things might look like under various EV uptake rates. This will provide a view of how the current grid will perform under different conditions, and how we can put in place solutions before any issues arise.

“For example, if everyone comes home at 6pm and charges their electric vehicles during this peak period when people are also busy at home going about everyday life, what might that mean for performance on the grid in certain areas? And would there be an impact on the customer experience?”

The establishment of the new EV highway is also a chance to get Western Power guidelines and standards in place for all future EV infrastructure.

“We’re working through amending our technical connection documents which will create consistency for the wider industry and the future. We’re setting ourselves up for EV’s in the long-term to allow us to integrate EV's into our grid in the most efficient manner.

“So it’s very early stages, but things are going to move quite quickly, and we expect that by sometime next year the first chargers for the State Government's EV highway will go in.”

Decarbonising the every day

As well as being good for customers, the shift to EV’s is good for Western Power’s objective to increase the amount of lower cost renewables on the grid and decarbonising the local economy.

Grids need stability to operate effectively. Renewables tend to ebb and flow, depending on when the sun is shining or wind is blowing.

EV’s, their batteries and charging stations can work as ‘tools’ to help smooth the flow of power on the grid, and if power can be effectively managed, allow for even more renewables to be used across the network.

“In the early days, we will be able to encourage EV owners to charge up their vehicle at home in the middle of the day when the sun is shining, helping soak up excess solar that is being generated.

“In future scenarios, we expect EV owners will be able to store energy in their EV battery at those high sunshine periods, and then possibly discharge excess during peak period back to the grid, after the sun has gone down and be compensated for this service.”

The use of more renewables, even at peak times, means the grid will be increasing it’s use of greener energy, leading to more decarbonisation. And our use of green energy in our increasingly electrified transport system, will result in more decarbonisation across another major everyday activity.

“For us, EV’s are really exciting as it’s another way for the grid to support the community and provide more renewable and cost-effective power and make big transformational changes that are good for the environment as well.”

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