MPower: Vision backed by experience

MPower: Vision backed by experience

Having dominated the distributed power generation and emergency power markets for many years, MPower is now building Australia’s renewable future.

The expertise and alliances developed over many years have positioned MPower well to tackle emerging markets within the renewable energy sector.

In a nut shell

MPower has grown from small but diversified beginnings to become a multi-faceted group with various businesses within different niches of the power industry.

“If you look at everything we do, everything is about distributed power,” said MPower Managing Director Anthony Csillag. “We take a lot of pride in where we come from, and it’s exciting to see the scope of projects we’ve been able to lead, with a very interesting and bright future ahead.”

MPower specialises in three distinct segments; solar power, energy storage, and sophisticated power systems for the oil and gas and mining industries.

Solar Power

MPower builds solar farms from small remotes communities through to MW scale projects.

MPower’s vertical integration of the solar industry includes project development, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) through to operations and maintenance for the life of the power-generating asset. Its scale of vertical integration has proven beneficial to many of its clients. Having completed a 1.7MW solar farm for Rio Tinto, MPower is nearing completion of a 5MW solar farm for First Solar in Samoa.

Energy Storage

MPower has led the energy storage revolution in Australia.

Its defining moment was solving the problems associated with maximizing the amount of solar power that could be integrated into remote aboriginal communities to reduce fossil fuel consumption. MPower’s solution was to support the solar power with stored energy through periods of cloud cover. The solar power became more stable and predictable facilitating larger amounts of solar power as an overall percentage of the off grid power plant.

Utilising this patented remote community technology, MPower solved problems in the residential energy market segment with its residential energy storage units (RES); the results of which have now been published by SP Ausnet. By storing energy generated from solar panels MPower can essentially time shift when solar power is used, even at night.

MPower recently completed and commissioned a large scale Lithium Ion energy storage system for the University of Queensland Gatton Campus. The universities research will essentially stress test the advances in Lithium Ion battery technology in preparation for the full scale commercialisation of large scale energy storage.

Power systems

MPower’s founding core capability of distributed power and emergency power in the commercial sector has enabled it to tackle the more critical and technically advanced oil & gas and mining markets. Oil & Gas operations emergency power systems could best be defined under a famous NASA quote “failure is not an option.” In recent years MPower has provided emergency power packaged solutions to the likes of Woodside for its NR2 Project, Chevron for its Barrow Island Project and to INPEX for its current Ichthys projects.

To understand how and why MPower is in the market segments it is today it’s important to understand the beginnings where its ASX listed parent TAG made strategic synergistic acquisitions.

One of the strategic acquisitions was Westpower Rectifiers which specialized in Direct Current (DC) applications, the acquisition to supplement its own battery distribution business. The use of DC was in decline due to the evolution of Alternating Current (AC) inverter technology, primarily used in variable speed control and UPS Power systems. With this decline DC applications were predominantly DC traction for rail, battery chargers and high current rectifiers used in water purification and electrowinning metal recovery applications. The DC expertise in the market declined, MPower continued in these and other unique DC markets growing its expertise

Solar power Photo Voltaic (PV) technology produces DC power, MPower was thus well positioned to meet the needs of the PV market and develop advanced technologies. These technologies included its patented grid stabilisation system (GSS) introduced earlier. The GSS is being used in remote communities to maximize the amount of PV embedded in local off grid power systems by compensating for power dips associated with cloud cover. This same technology was used to develop its residential energy storage (RES) unit being successfully trialed in the SP Ausnet network.

Advancements and developments continue such as its current project for the Karratha Airport on grid solar farm. MPower is providing a solution for the smooth ramp down of the solar farm power onto the Horizon power grid to prevent shock load drop off associated with intermittent cloud cover. The enhancement being engaged here is the integration of cloud predicting technology that will enable MPower to start ramping down solar power before any cloud arrives under a normal unsupported by power ramp down, minimizing the requirement for stored energy support. The net result a more cost effective solution by minimizing the battery support required.

Leader in renewables

What makes MPower different to other companies is how it combines new and old technologies with a skilled and experienced workforce to create products and power systems that go the distance. Add state-of-the-art engineering and project management facilities, and MPower is equipped to deliver on all manner of power related projects, stamped with a degree of sophistication that is unparalleled in the region.

“The pioneering spirit motivates our team. Anyone that works for us is not bored — nothing is mundane,” said Csillag.

This pioneering spirit can be seen in multiple projects headed up by MPower. The Chevron Gorgon project for MPower involved supplying a 32MW power station that was originally meant to be temporary but is still operating today.

“Given the challenge of limited space for the power plant, we also had to build it so it could operate continuously in emergency conditions, even in a cyclone,” said Csillag.

“We designed and built one of the highest density diesel power systems for that particular project. It was designed and structurally built to withstand and operate in Category 5 cyclones.”

Another example of MPower’s ever improving technology of renewable energy includes a 200 KW solar farm in the Kimberley region in Western Australia. Contracted to design and install the solar farm for the Aboriginal community of Yungngora, MPower delivered on all its promises. The community now receives roughly 25 per cent of its power from solar.

“Completing the Yungngora project leaves us with a sense of satisfaction, not only for helping remote communities become less reliant on fossil fuels, but also having an Australian-based MPower engineering team continue to progress this important technology,” Csillag said.

Culture of empowerment

Much of MPower’s success can be attributed to the learning culture it strives to create. As such, MPower has affiliations with all major universities, and continually sources and support talent from these institutions. MPower also supports a trade’s based workforce and apprentice scheme with continued training programs that have seen these young recruits progress through the organisation.

“We empower our young people early on and tend to have high employee retention rates, which help to attract a lot of applicants through word of mouth,” said Csillag. “We’re proud of our employees and it’s good to see their careers and ambitions being fulfilled.”

On the other end of the spectrum, MPower has assembled an army of talented veteran employees, most of which have been with the company for 10 years or more.

“We tailor programs around new and present employees, with everything from electrical to mechanical programs,” Csillag said. “Our workforce is very ambitious and we want to watch them grow.”
On the horizon

What’s next for MPower? MPower is working on energy storage applications from residential energy storage to utility scale storage systems.

“With the potential proliferation of the electric car, power networks could see peaks in power consumption that may not be accommodated. These peaks occurring when people arrive home from work docking and recharging their vehicles. To test the network’s capability to accommodate for this surge, we installed residential energy storage (RES) units with three kilowatts of solar on 10 different residential homes, and designed the system so it could be controlled and interrogated remotely from a central location,” said Csillag.

The test revealed that MPower could limit the residential demand by charging the batteries during the day with solar. Then, when the power limit of the residence was exceeded, it would be taken from the RES unit, instead of the grid.

“We’ve gone through different stages with trials and modifications. Conceptually all remote energy storage sites could be mapped and managed from a central location  to see how much storage each resident has and or needs, not just the 10 sites trialed but whole communities,” said Csillag.

According to Csillag, many of the power network’s small power lines — known as SWER lines — have never been upgraded. While communities have grown significantly in size so has the demand for power. The average power demand is generally accommodated however not peak power; another application for MPower’s RES unit known as peak power lopping, a natural extension of the developments to date.

“Moving forward, we’re continually looking at all potential usage of energy storage in the renewable energy sector and other markets,” said Csillag. “And we’re not just looking — we’re trialing new applications and putting ideas into motion.”

“We expect to make announcements later this year of the successful integration of a seamless off grid project where the plant can switch between diesel engine generated power to 100% solar power maintaining protection systems, an Australian and potentially world first application”

Anthony Csillag