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Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Western Australia is pursuing innovative solar opportunities for the Goldfields

An announcement made by the Government of Western Australia featured the plans of the McGowan Government to develop a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) trial in the Goldfields that will bring renewable energy, innovative technology, and network support to the region.

A$500,000 will be invested by the McGowan Government for the development of a proposal for a VPP trial in the Goldfields in order to make land available for future large-scale renewable energy development in the region.

A VPP is a distributed rooftop solar and battery system that collects energy, which can be described as being similar to that of a centralised power station.

It can also link rooftop solar panels with energy storage devices and load control systems in a web-based network to create a single energy supply.

A preliminary assessment into large-scale solar projects in the Goldfields identified the best path forward to bring renewable energy, innovative technology, and network support to the region. This will secure the future energy needs for Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the wider region.

Different groups were consulted during the assessment: the local industry, energy groups, mining companies, solar developers and relevant government agencies.

Installation of a VPP on the Kalgoorlie-Boulder properties will most likely include public housing, which will provide the public housing tenants access to renewable energy as well as reduced electricity charges.

Positive results of having a VPP are provision of more energy to the region and improved reliability, which is fundamental to enabling the economic development and growth of the region.

Alongside the implementation of network regulation changes in 2022 would be the allocation of available land for the development of large-scale renewable projects.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development will work hand in hand with relevant agencies, such as the Public Utilities Office, Western Power, and Lands agencies.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said, "We now have a comprehensive analysis of the complexities of a large-scale solar project in the region, and mapped out some innovative and interesting ways forward.”

She added, “A VPP has the potential to achieve multiple positive outcomes, including increasing the amount of energy available in the Goldfields, trialling innovative power technologies, supporting grid stability and management strategies, and helping WA move forward on emissions reduction. We look forward to working with industry and other stakeholders on building the best model for the region.”

“Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the wider region is a big economic contributor to the State. Future renewable energy solutions will be a priority to securing regional growth and servicing the needs of this growing regional population,” she explained.

Energy Minister Ben Wyatt said, “Despite the Goldfields being an obvious location for a major solar project with year-round high solar energy levels, input to the electricity grid in the region needs to be carefully managed.”

He added, “The trial of a Virtual Power Plant in the Goldfields is an exciting prospect that has the potential to assist Western Power and the market operator to assess how innovative technologies can help manage some network challenges in the region.”

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