02/12/2014 - 09:37

Pilbara business goes off-grid

02/12/2014 - 09:37

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One of Western Australia’s largest solar power providers is set to take a Pilbara-based corporation off-grid after striking a deal that provides electricity and battery storage at a commercially competitive rate to Horizon Power.

Pilbara business goes off-grid
EMC managing director John Davidson.

One of Western Australia’s largest solar power providers is set to take a Pilbara-based corporation off-grid after striking a deal that provides electricity and battery storage at a commercially competitive rate to Horizon Power.

Energy Made Clean has been engaged by The Pilbara Meta Maya Regional Aboriginal Corporation to build a 100 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system with a 76kW hour lithium ion battery storage capacity.

Meta Maya general manager Luke van Zeller said it would pay $350,000 for the system and expected to see a return on it within six to seven years.

The system will provide enough energy to power Meta Maya’s electricity, air-conditioning and cooking requirements at its office, depot yard and warehouse in Port Hedland, in a move EMC believes is the first time a Pilbara-based company has gone off-grid.

Meta Maya has 45 employees, many who travel to 29 remote Aboriginal communities across the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Murchison to provides essential power, water and housing management support.

The corporation initially asked EMC to provide its South Hedland headquarters with a solar PV system connected to Horizon Power’s grid.

EMC managing director John Davidson told Business News Meta Maya wanted to reduce its electricity bill, but technical constraints from Horizon – such as paying $50,000 for a solar smoothing device – prompted it to look at alternatives.

“The customer didn’t think those constraints were going to lead them to any commercial benefit,” Mr Davidson said.

“The other advantage for them is this system now becomes a cookie-cutter for systems out in their customer base out through the Pilbara and we’ll be able to train their men up on how to operate and maintain these systems.”

Mr Davidson said Meta Maya's new estimated cost of electricity was competitive in rates to what it was paying Horizon previously and it would continue to keep a diesel generator it previously had, as backup.

He said customers were being driven to look at non-traditional power solutions.

“We are seeing a rising number of customers looking at alternative ways to overcome rising electricity costs and also looking to sidestep some of these commercially driven constraints that are being placed on them by the electricity authorities,’’ Mr Davidson said.

“The economics will eventually be the ultimate test and we’ve proven (that) with the decline in the cost of solar and the arrival of lithium ion batteries that come with a very bankable warranty.

“The consumer is a moving target and he will adapt and decide what he wants.”

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