The Western Australia state government says it expects emissions to be slashed by half, and costs by nearly as much, as it turns to a mixture of wind, solar and battery storage to replace at least of the fossil fuel power that currently supplies the south coast town of Esperance.
The government and its state-owned energy utility Horizon Power announced last week that Contract Power Group had won a 20-year contract to supply electricity to the Esperance region from a proposed hybrid solar, battery storage, wind, and gas-fired generation project.
Energy minister Bill Johnston says the new long-term power purchase agreement will not only halve the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity supply, but will also provide a reduction in the cost of electricity supply of around 39%.
That will reduce the cost of the government subsidy to the region – to ensure that local residents pay no more than elsewhere – by around $10 million.
A new state-of-the-art renewables hub will feature a four megawatt solar farm and two 4.3 megawatt wind turbines, which will deliver up to 46% of the town’s renewable energy annually – almost doubling the amount of renewable energy produced.
This will be augmented by a 5.5MW/1.9MWh battery storage installation and a new, more efficient gas power station. Horizon Power says this battery will make the new gas-powered generator more efficient (by lessening need for rotating back-up, like Alinta has achieved at the Newman gas generator) and to provide fast response to variabilities in power transmission.
This will help address changes in output from the higher levels of renewables in the network, and the growing amount of rooftop solar. Horizon Power says the community can expect to experience a reduction in the likelihood of power fluctuations.
“We are very excited about the short and long-term benefits this new power solution will provide the Esperance community,” Horizon CEO Stephanie Unwin said in a statement. She noted that the company was also exploring a future shared ownership model for the solar farm with the local community.”
The construction of the two new turbines means that the contract with six smaller, ageing turbines owned by Synergy will end, as will a contract with the existing 33MW gas-fired generator, owned by Energy Infrastructure Trust, which was only built in 2004, and expanded in 2008.
Minister Johnston says the 50% reduction in the carbon footprint equates to removing 6,458 cars from the road annually.
“The agreement is in line with the McGowan Government’s Energy Transformation Strategy, which aims to deliver cleaner, greener energy to regional communities,” he said in a statement.
Construction is set to begin in September 2020 and completion is expected in November 2021. Over 50 jobs will be created during the 15-month construction phase, and CPA’s key subcontractor, juwi, is aiming to ensure at least 15 of its workers come from the Esperance region.
Horizon Power and CPA will work closely with the Goldfields Esperance Development Commission, the Esperance Tjaltjaark Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, and local contractors and businesses.