Off-grid energy a hit for Esperance farmers

Dorothy HendersonCountryman
The 2015 bushfires, near Esperance.
Camera IconThe 2015 bushfires, near Esperance. Credit: Mogens Johansen

Energy supply on farms in the Esperance region is undergoing a transformation in the wake of the devastating 2015 bushfires, which destroyed essential infrastructure and forced a systems rethink.

Horizon Power plans to install 17 standalone power systems in the region as poles and wires that liberated landholders from the generators and back-up batteries of the past are replaced by modern versions of pre-scheme systems.

The move to standalone systems was driven by damage done during the 2015 fires. As farmers grappled with an event that emotionally gutted the community, they also had to deal with the reality of managing without easily accessible power.

Generators filled the gap while other options were investigated.

Scaddan farmer Peter Vermeersch and his family were among those who trialled standalone systems after the fires. With land on the end of a spur in the supply system, his farm was one of those considered perfect for a test run.

“For about two months after the fires we used generators on the farm, and we were coping OK, especially as we had such tremendous community support,” he said.

“Then Horizon Power asked if we wanted to try the standalone systems.

“We have had no outages, and the generator has hardly had to be used. In fact, we can’t remember when it was last filled up with fuel.”

Condingup farmer and Horizon Power standalone power system customer Nick Chapman is also a fan of the new on-farm energy source.

“At shearing time power reliability is everything,” he said.

“This is one area where the stand-alone power system unit will ensure there’s no risk of my shearing contractors standing around because of power issues.”

Horizon Power will be the first utility in Australia to remove parts of its overhead network and replace it with an off-grid renewable energy power solution.

The new standalone systems will be installed on fringe-of-grid properties east of Esperance, with the emphasis on farms susceptible to outages.

As part of the project, 64km of poles and wires, which are prone to outages caused by weather events, wildlife, farm machinery, accidents and bushfires, will be removed.

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