Kalbarri is a resort town on the mouth of the Murchison River; 592 km north of Perth. The township has suffered frequent blackouts for many years. In 2014, a string of blackouts during the summer months crippled the town’s economy.
In what the Government says may be the largest initiative of its kind in the country, the renewables-based microgrid project will include rooftop solar panels, the Kalbarri wind farm and large scale energy storage.
“This 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 WA Energy Minister, Mike Nahan.
Kalbarri has a permanent population of around 1,800; but that swells to 8,000 during tourist season. Attracting 200,000 tourists every year, the town’s popularity isn’t surprising – it’s a very picturesque place; with great fishing, swimming and many coastal activities; including humpback whale watching.
Kalbarri’s peak electricity usage is currently 3.7MW. The new microgrid may be as large as 5MW peak capable with 2MWh of battery storage.
Minister Nahan says contracts will be settled and the project underway sometime next year, with completion to be as “quickly as possible”.
“In the event of an outage on the main feeder line that supplies electricity to Kalbarri from Geraldton, the microgrid will ensure the Kalbarri community will still have power until the fault is corrected,” stated the Minister.
The existing Kalbarri wind farm generates around one third of the energy required by the community and avoids nearly 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
A working group that met earlier this year discounted the idea of using the conventional go-to solution for unreliable power supply.
“”The more traditional methods on trying to make the line look and be more reliable are not working,” said Kalbarri resident Mac Holt at the time.
“We recognise that you can’t just put back a diesel generator into town.”
Trivia: The Murchison River is the second longest river in WA. At 820 kilometres long, it has a catchment area larger than the land area of Tasmania (82,000km2)
Image credit: Kalbarri Visitor Centre