Horizon Power expands renewable energy trial after Esperance success

Horizon Power expands renewable energy trial after Esperance success
  1. Horizon Power expands renewable energy trial after Esperance success
    If you've ever dreamed of living off the energy grid and you live in some of the more remote parts of Western Australia, you might find it's not that far out of…
    Western Australia
By Kathryn Diss Rodney Locke stands next to a long row of solar panels. Photo: Rodney Locke says he could not imagine going back on the main power grid. (ABC News: Tara de Landgrafft)

Have you ever considered living off the energy grid?

If you are living in remote areas on the fringes of WA's electricity network, it might pay to give it some thought.

Energy utilities have long been working towards a time when solar panels and battery storage devices became a cheaper way of supplying power to remote customers than traditional poles and wires.

And now energy utility Horizon Power has cracked the code — managing to install five solar systems on farms near Esperance in the Great Southern at lower cost than replacing traditional poles and wires.

"It's about deploying batteries, solar panels with back-up diesel and using it in a clever combination so they get access to reliable electricity which is every bit as good as what we could provide in a network solution," Horizon Power's managing director Frank Tudor said.

The systems were installed as a trial after a devastating bushfire swept through the region two years ago, claiming four lives, destroying livestock and wiping out close to 400 power poles.

The success of the trial is prompting the utility to roll out the systems in other remote areas of the state where it would have otherwise had to replace ageing poles and wires.

"We are looking at deploying it in Exmouth, we're also looking at deploying it at the Fitzgerald National Park outside of Hopetoun and we're working with various customers and suppliers to be able to do that," Mr Tudor said.

A giant solar battery sits on the ground at sunset. Photo: Giant solar batteries are being installed as an alternative to wires and poles. (Supplied: Horizon Power)

Farmers enjoy more reliable power

Cape Le Grand farmer Rodney Locke was one of a handful of farmers to sign up for the trial 18 months ago.

"The previous service we had wasn't the most reliable," he said.

"We could also have a better power supply by getting three phase power into our workshop which we never had before and couldn't get.

"Since we've been on the standalone power system it's far more reliable, whenever you want power it's there and the blackouts just don't happen like they used to.

"I couldn't imagine having to be back on the main grid at our home farm."

Utility's $100m plans for Onslow

Horizon Power also has big plans for the north-west community of Onslow, with the aim of delivering more than half of the town's energy from renewable sources.

"We are refreshing the entire electricity infrastructure because large resource developments have quadrupled the size of the town," Mr Tudor said.

"We're spending over $100 million putting in a comprehensive micro-grid.

"The intention there is to actually have more than 50 per cent of the energy p…