Walpole Western Australia, location of pumped hydro renewable microgrid

Western Australia’s first pumped hydro renewable microgrid project has officially begun construction on the site and is set to be operational by late 2023.

A collaborative project between Western Australian-based engineering company Power Research and Development (PRD) and Western Power, the self-sufficient renewable solution will significantly improve power reliability for homes and businesses in Walpole.

The 1.5MW pumped hydro facility will use two farm dams to store 30MW hours of energy and works by pumping water uphill from one dam to another when renewables are abundant and energy is cheap.

During periods of high demand, the water is released downhill through a hydro generation unit to produce electricity. In the event of an outage, it will supply power to the Walpole townsite.

The project was awarded $2 million as part of the Western Australian Government’s Clean Energy Future Fund, which supports the implementation of innovative clean energy projects in Western Australia.

The project is boosting employment and economic growth in the area, with Denmark-based company MCC Contractors undertaking the main earthworks creating 12 jobs, with an additional 38 jobs in other trades, services, and design work.

On the distribution side of the project, Western Power is finalising works to connect Walpole homes and businesses to the world-class energy solution.

Following the completion of the lower dam, works on the upper dam and pipe installation to connect the two dams will be completed next year.

Western Australian Energy Minister, Bill Johnston, said the location of the solution at Walpole is at the end of a 125km long feeder line, exposed to disruptive elements such as vegetation and animals, storms, lightning and bushfires.

“The pumped hydro solution will reduce the number of outages in Walpole using green energy at no additional cost to businesses or the community while generating quality local jobs,” Mr Johnston said. 

“This project plays an important role in our clean energy future, supports the increasing rise of renewables, and assists in balancing power demand and supply.”

Western Australian Environment and Climate Action Minister, Reece Whitby, said he was proud of the State Government’s Clean Energy Future Fund which contributed to the innovative local project that will help improve power reliability for the people of Walpole.

“This is exactly the type of project the fund has been set up for,” Mr Whitby said. 

“It’s invaluable in supporting initiatives which can drive down emissions and have the potential for widespread rollout.”  

Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie said she was excited the people of Walpole can benefit from “such a unique, green project that will deliver greater energy reliability”.

“The Government’s investment represents a boost for economic growth and employment in the town, with as many as 50 local jobs being created,” Ms Kelsbie said. 

Power Research and Development Director, Colin Stonehouse, said, “It is gratifying for Pumped-Up Walpole proceeding to plan, which is due to the great work of our project team, Western Power’s team, the State Government’s Clean Energy Future Fund and support of our world-class equipment suppliers.

“The project has given us confidence to commence planning for other pumped hydro renewable microgrids on the edge of grid towns in Western Australia.

“Of around 30 well-suited towns we are looking at so far, our aspiration is to have five ready to proceed after Walpole.”

The renewable microgrid will be used as a blueprint for other parts of the state, and possibly nationally and internationally.

For more information, visit https://www.westernpower.com.au.

Feature image: Walpole. Image: Western Power

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