Powering communications in a natural disaster

02 May 2024

Essential Energy secures Federal Government funding to support communications during climate events

Essential Energy has secured $1 million in funding under the Federal Government’s Telecommunications Disaster Resilience Innovation (TDRI) Program to acquire six portable stand-alone power systems (SAPS) that will support communications during a natural disaster.

The portable SAPS, which consist of solar panels, a battery and a backup diesel generator, can be transported through rugged terrain to restore power to telecommunications towers when weather events impact the electricity network. Providing safe and reliable power to the towers ensures uninterrupted communications during or immediately after a natural disaster.

During the 2019-20 bushfires, Essential Energy rolled out similar technology at two telecommunications sites, Peak Alone (near Cobargo) and Mount Selwyn (Snowy Mountains region). This allowed for vital communications to continue for Essential Energy crews and emergency services until power could be restored.

The portable SAPS can be rotated to telecommunication sites across Essential Energy’s network as required. The funding also includes enabling work for rapid deployment at 12 sites which have been selected due to historic vulnerability to flooding and bushfire disasters. They are Berrigan, Buronga, Deniliquin, Gilgandra, Goondiwindi (South and North locations), Goulburn, Grafton, Hay, Hillston, Wagga Wagga and Yass.

Essential Energy’s Chief Operating Officer Luke Jenner says this funding reflects Essential Energy’s commitment to improving the resilience of its network and the supply of safe and reliable electricity to its 890,000 customers.

“Being able to provide communications during a natural disaster is critical to essential services. These stand-alone power systems will ensure Essential Energy’s crews can still communicate while they work to safely restore the power when communities need it most,” Luke says.

“They will also support emergency services teams who rely on radio communications while they work to protect communities during major climate events.”

The delivery of the six portable stand-alone power systems along with the enabling work at each of the 12 sites is expected to be completed by June 2025.

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government. The TDRI program is part of the Australian Government’s Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia which is providing more than $1.1 billion to rural and regional communities, including $656 million to improve mobile and broadband connectivity and resilience in rural and regional Australia.

Peak Alone SAPS

The stand-alone power system and communications tower at Peak Alone near Cobargo.

Mt Selwyn SAPS

The stand-alone power system and communications towers after the 2019-20 bushfires at Mt Selwyn in Victoria.