The Western Australian Government will investigate developing an electricity microgrid – likely to be Australia’s biggest edge-of-grid solution – to support the Kalbarri community, in WA’s Mid-West region.

Energy Minister Mike Nahan announced that state-owned utility Western Power would contribute $300,000 towards a feasibility study to develop a microgrid, which aims to improve the reliability of the 140 km network between Geraldton and Kalbarri.

“The Kalbarri microgrid will be an important test for applying technology in an innovative way to improve electricity supply for regional communities while using the network more sustainably and affordably,” Dr Nahan said.

“This is a model that could be used as a blueprint for other regional areas and help in the development of further renewable generation across the rural edges of the electricity network.”

The feasibility study, which is expected to take six months to complete, will consider the best way to develop an electricity system that interacts with the network to supply the town and push excess power down the line, said the WA Government,

The smart system would be able to reverse power flows overnight when stored energy was insufficient to meet demand and disconnect from the larger network should a fault occur.

The network between Geraldton and Kalbarri is commonly affected by extended power outages due to windborne salt and dust.

The minister said microgrids were suited to regional areas because they could take different shapes, depending on the requirements of each community.

“It really is an exciting time in the electricity industry and these projects put WA at the forefront of the application of new technologies on a large scale,” he said.

“The Kalbarri energy project is just one of the innovative projects the Government is currently exploring to more efficiently and reliably supply electricity to rural and isolated communities. Other projects include Western Power’s development of a microgrid on Garden Island in partnership with Carnegie Wave Energy and its standalone power projects in the Great Southern and southern Wheatbelt, in partnership with Synergy and Horizon Power.”