WA’s Horizon Power to lead the way on renewable microgrids

For Western Australian network operator Horizon Power, which averages one customer every 53 square kilometres and already operates 37 microgrids, the shift from centralised fossil fuel power generation to distributed renewable energy powered grids will arrive sooner, rather than later.

“We believe that the future will be distributed energy, particularly in these small micro girds,” said Laurie Curro, Horizon’s general manager of power system services, in a presentation at Australian Energy Week 2016 in Melbourne in June.

“Centralised energy will be there in some form or other, but distributed energy will be the way to go.” And it will be the way to go, he added, because of cost.

“Because we run small micro grids we see (the shift to distributed generation) accelerating at a fast rate,” Curro says. And the graph above illustrates his point. The company estimates that distributed energy – rooftop solar and battery storage and other local generation – will leap from 1 per cent now to more than 50 per cent by 2025.

And that is based on the most economic outcome. By 2050, it suggests, centralised generation will be reduced from 98 per cent now to just 9 per cent.

And because the economics for the transition are so much more powerful in the remote and isolated grids that Horizon operates, Curro says Horizon’s experience will provide “a bit of a test bed” for the larger grid, and some of the solutions the still government-owned network is looking at may turn out to be a solution for the larger grid as well.

“So whether the distributed energy is owned by us or by somebody else, it doesn’t really matter, where the social demographic is such that people can’t afford to put their own systems in, we will probably put our own systems somewhere down the end of the street, batteries, etc. So we’ll approach a distributed energy future as much as we can, mainly because it is cost effective.

“We are looking at what other benefits we can get from this (shift to renewables),” he told the conference.

“Can we use the system for other things? Can we use the batteries for other things? Can we install the batteries ourselves and have other people maybe buy into it – a community type situation?

“Storage will be a game changer and control, the ability to manage these systems, will also be the key to it,” he said.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd