The acceleration and fast adoption of stand-alone power systems (SPS) in regional WA is one of the best examples of how new technologies are transforming energy outcomes for customers and solving age-old problems.
When the first six SPS were installed back in 2016, it was hard to imagine that just a few short years later it would be the go-to technology for large swathes of regional areas in the SWIS.
Back then, the SPS program was an experimental pilot. The hope was that using the technology would improve the customer experience to properties at the end of long lines, who have long had issues with power reliability.
Fast forward just five years and SPS is becoming a business as usual (BAU) technology for Western Power and a key part of our modular grid network plan.
From the first six in the pilot, almost one hundred units have now been installed across regional areas of the SWIS, including 36 units which were deployed to customers following the destruction of cyclone Seroja. A global-leading industry around the supply and installation of the units is now growing here in WA.
And those poles and long wires that have long dotted and stretched across the vast expanses of regional Western Australia are now coming down, as their use becomes redundant where SPS are installed.
“It’s been a whirlwind few years,” says Margot Hammond, SPS Project Lead who has been with the SPS project since the pilot.
“When you sit back and reflect on the journey, it really is amazing that these quite simple units pack as much punch as they do.
“It’s been a game changer for those regional customers that have often experienced outages due to the difficulties of supplying power along long, long lines where a lot can go wrong.
“And they get to tap into our abundant sunshine and power their properties with more renewable power.”
Hammond says it’s been satisfying to see the SPS units go from pilot to ‘BAU’ within such a short timeframe.
“Since those first six properties near Ravensthorpe had their SPS units installed, we’ve estimated they’ve reduced the power outage time over five years from a likely 1000 hours to just 72 hours. It’s a remarkable improvement in power quality and supply, and so the more customers we can reach, and quickly, the better outcomes for everyone.”
Embraced by customers
While it’s been Western Power’s role to facilitate the roll-out of the units, including supporting local supply and installation businesses with skills and support, Hammond says the fast adoption can also be attributed to how customers are embracing SPS.
Properties like farms can be big power users, having to power up sheds, shearing and mechanical equipment, homes on the property and even electric fences.
Convincing farmers that these stand-alone units with solar panels could generate enough power for an entire shearing or welding set-up was one of the first challenges for the team.
“Power is such an essential service, no-one wants to risk not having it, we understood that,” says Hammond.
“So when we were talking to potential customers, we had to prove that the solar panels and batteries in a SPS unit, backed by a diesel generator, could generate enough power for a whole property. We’re really grateful to those first six properties that got involved with the pilot and worked with us to test out the technology and prove this could work.
“Those original pilot participants became great advocates for what we were doing, talking to others in the community about the SPS units. Given innovation and problem solving is innate in regional communities, and that the evidence for the performance and benefits of SPS units was so strong, the number of people interested in getting SPS units very quickly grew.”
SPS on the rise
Over the coming decade, Western Power is scheduled to install approximately 4000 SPS units, with a focus on properties where energy infrastructure is scheduled for significant maintenance.
Utilising SPS technology rather than replacing the traditional overhead infrastructure presents an opportunity provide a more reliable service at a lower cost.
It’s expected that over 50,000 power poles and 23,000km of conductor – a fire risk that are also the bane of farmers trying to crop around them in the middle of a paddock – will also be removed following the deployment of SPS units.
This scheduled roll out does not include those that may want SPS units and can now request to purchase an SPS unit for their property.
“Our understanding of SPS technology has matured to the point where we can offer, for a cost, SPS units to those that want them, outside of those being installed as part of the network maintenance.”
WA providers and the SPS industry here is also likely to play a lead role as SPS technology is adapted over east and in other parts of the world where the technology makes more cost, quality and energy access sense than traditional poles and wires infrastructure.
“WA is now one of the SPS hotspots in the world. We’ve had several other utilities coming to talk to us to tap into our knowledge, and our local providers are of SPS are poised to make the most of their expertise.
“It’s been a rapid change and technology maturation, and it’s very satisfying that the benefits are making such a big difference to a customer group that really needed better power quality.
“We thank them for getting on board and coming along this ride with us, as we couldn’t have done it without them.”
What are the benefits of SPS to me and my regional community
What are the benefits of SPS?
I’m in a metro area, how does SPS benefit me?
Who do I speak to if I have any SPS questions or want to apply for an SPS?
How do SPS help with bushfire safety?
With one of the largest and most isolated energy networks in the world, some WA customers rely on long stretches of powerlines for their power supply, and the poles and wires are costly to maintain.
As self-sufficient power units, SPS provide customers with locally generated renewable energy, delivering improved reliability.
SPS also makes powerlines redundant, creating significant savings in reduced maintenance and upkeep of poles and wires. Decommissioned poles and wires also reduce the bushfire risk.
Given the benefits of SPS, we are rolling out thousands of SPS units to serve customers... Read more
SPS benefit all WA customers, particularly those in regional WA.
SPS provide a new reliable energy solution for customers on rural properties serviced by long powerlines.
SPS provides customers with a more reliable power supply, generating enough renewable power to service the needs of farming businesses and homesteads. Over five years, the first properties to have SPS units installed, reduced their power outages up to 90%and had more reliable power at their shearing sheds, homesteads and farm operations resulting in better productivity for those businesses, and their operations became more... Read more
In rural and remote areas, customers are serviced by powerlines that stretch over long distances. Using stand-alone power systems, (SPS), instead of poles and wires on suitable properties and locations has a number of benefits, including:
- Improved power reliability: as power is generated on-site, customers can expect up to 90% less power outages.
- Enabling lower emissions: up to 90% of the SPS electricity comes from solar panels and the stored solar energy in the battery, creating a more renewable energy source to power homes and businesses.
- Suited to customer needs:SPS units come in different... Read more
While stand-alone power systems (SPS) are installed in rural areas, they have significant flow-on benefits for customers in metropolitan and other built-up areas.
SPS provide significant cost savings as they reduce the need for poles and wires infrastructure and maintenance in remote areas. These savings are being reinvested back into the network, enabling the roll-out of more energy technology solutions like community batteries in Perth metro or renewable microgrids in regional towns.
Western Power will directly contact those customers who are eligible for an SPS as part of our asset replacement program.
While you cannot directly apply for an SPS, you are able to purchase one. You can find out more information about it on our products and services page.
If you have any questions, please submit an enquiry through our customer experience team.
Alternately, you can call us on 13 10 87 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am - 5pm).
As a localised renewable technology solution, SPS provide self-sufficient power to rural properties, businesses and locations where they are installed.
They can support various energy needs, from shearing sheds to homesteads, welding and other farm operations.
This means that powerlines to properties that have a SPS will no longer be required and can be removed, significantly reducing the risk of bushfire.
This reduces bushfire risk as long powerlines exposed to dust, debris, lightning and other environmental factors, poses a fire risk. As poles are de-energised, and then removed (decommissioned), ... Read more