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The power shift: Exploring alternative energy sources

For decades we transported electricity to your home from traditional coal-powered generators – that was the primary source of generation and one that suited the technology of the time. But that’s all changing.

WA’s population is on the rise and so is the demand for cleaner energy, better efficiency and reliability, and more sustainable solutions. So we have been moving our attention to smarter energy sources to deliver this to you.

As the energy sector evolves, so too do our sources.

The energy produced from natural resources is all around us and is constantly being replaced. Sunlight, wind, water, tides, waves and geothermal heat are all playing a part in powering our network into the future.

The most recent Clean Energy Council Report shows the extent of the uptake in renewables for 2017 in Australia.

Some key takeaways include:

  • more than 1100MW of rooftop solar power capacity was installed, eclipsing the previous best in 2012
  • wind and hydro generation contributed the highest renewable energy, hydro at 33.9% and wind at 33.8%, with solar coming in next at 22.6%
  • overall, renewables fell slightly from 17.3% of Australia’s electricity in 2016 to 17% in 2017, largely due to a decline in hydro generation as a result of reduced rainfall.

There’s more growth in renewables on the horizon, with more than 50 large-scale wind and solar projects currently planned within the next year. This represents more than 5300MW of new generating capacity and will lead to over 5,700 new jobs.

So what does a future with less coal stations look like? Let’s take a look at the alternative energy options powering our grid now and tomorrow.

Wind power

WA is home to several wind farms. Wind power is currently the cheapest type of renewable, with blades on a turbine harnessing the natural power of the wind.

These blades are connected to a hub, which links to a generator and as the wind blows, the energy on the blades drives the generator.

There’s greater wind strength at higher altitudes, so taller turbines are generally more productive, with energy created by wind estimated at just 5 cents per Kilowatt hour.

Perth is officially the third windiest capital in the world, after Wellington in New Zealand and Chicago in the United States, so there’s great potential for wind energy here in WA.

In fact, we have been involved in several wind farm projects to connect this renewable energy to our grid and deliver cleaner, greener energy to WA customers. 

renewable wind farm perth western australia

Wave energy

WA has miles of coastline, and ocean power has the potential to make waves in clean energy targets.

The Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation believes wave energy could contribute up to 11% of Australia’s energy by 2050.

We’ve connected the world’s first ever wave energy integrated microgrid to the network, just off Perth at Garden Island, for Carnegie Clean Energy. With wave buoys, solar panels, a battery and diesel generator, this integrated approach could be an ideal model to transport power to coastal regions.

Solar power

Solar energy is created by the sun, as heat and light. This continent has the most solar coverage per square metre than any other in the world, making it ideal for large scale solar farms and domestic rooftop solar. In fact, the largest solar farm is here in WA at Emu Downs with 75,000 photovoltaic panels.

According to the Clean Energy Council, large-scale solar capacity has grown twelve-fold over four years. Solar farms which feed into the grid, are usually developed in rural areas with panels covering anything between one and a hundred acres of land.

At Western Power, we make it possible for businesses and homes to connect their solar systems to the grid.

We’re also harnessing solar technology through stand-alone power systems, which may one day provide an alternative power source for regional customers. And sharing energy with your neighbours through a solar-powered microgrid could soon become the way of the future.

Hydro energy

Hydro energy uses moving water to create electricity and is one of the oldest renewables.

Much like wind energy, the pressure of water either flowing or falling, spins propellers within a turbine to help generate electricity.

Hydroelectric power stations use water from dams to create energy, with the amount of electricity being generated dependent on the volume and the height of the water falling.

Biomass energy

Biomass is about creating energy through burning, either from plant material, animal waste or by-products. It has been classed as a renewable energy even though it emits carbon emissions, because plants and animals can be replaced.

Other forms of energy

Gas turbine power stations and thermal power stations are other sources of energy we tap into, which generate electricity through gas combustion. Geothermal energy is also being explored across Australia as a potential renewable source. 

With the cost of large-scale batteries now becoming more affordable, we’re also exploring opportunities for storing alternative energy sources. Which is beneficial for peak times, when demand normally outweighs supply, and supporting regional reliability issues.

It’s these kinds of innovations that will transform the future of energy consumption in WA, giving you more control of your power use. And we couldn’t be more excited – because we’re connecting it all for you.

Embracing new technologies and renewable energy sources is key to a sustainable and reliable energy future for WA. 

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