What is a microgrid and how might your community benefit most from installing one?
The Southcoast µ-grid Reliability Feasibility (SµRF) is currently asking residents, businesses, and other groups in eight local communities how they could benefit most from various microgrid designs. Some examples include backup power for community buildings and facilities, providing essential services during blackouts, sharing locally produced energy and/or powering entire suburbs.
The goal is to see whether grid-tied microgrids can truly meet people’s needs and expectations.
This project will focus on eight different regions in the Eurobodalla shire (Bodalla, Broulee, Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba (treated together), Congo, Mystery Bay, Nelligen, South Durras, and Tuross Head).Consultation with these communities will begin later this year. Local community groups have been invited to participate, and additional invitations will be in people’s letterboxes in coming weeks.
SµRF is a joint research project funded by the federal government and combines forces from SHASA (South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance), the ANU ( Australian National University), Essential Energy, and ZepBen to explore the feasibility of microgrids in regional contexts that face challenges in resilience from events such as bushfires, especially in the Eurobodalla shire.
There is a lot of interest in the project. :“This is such a great idea - would love to be involved. We have solar on our property in Broulee - no battery as yet. Please put us down if we could be involved - or assist in any way.” - Broulee resident.
Central Tilba Business operator believes a decentralised model such as the one SHASA is investigating, is imperative to the survival of regional areas.
“As a significant power user, we are interested in being involved in regional based power solutions such as this, not only for the economic resilience of our business but for the economic resilience of regional communities in general. Solutions to power supply interruptions would encourage us to look at further expanding our business.”
A resident from Mystery Bay is interested in how microgrids can provide backup for the major power grid in case of emergencies.
“We also want to know if we can cut costs or connect to a local resource that is too small or unreliable for traditional grid use. We believe that a microgrid allows communities to be more energy independent and can be more environmentally friendly. These are important potential benefits to our community. “
Kathryn Maxwell, President of the Southcoast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA), said: “Decentralising our energy systems makes sense to SHASA if we are to keep energy affordable for our community. Producing and consuming electricity locally will also have significant economic benefits in terms of employment and keeping the money local. Now that this project has a focus on these areas of the Eurobodalla we can begin to understand what that energy system might look like from the communities’ point of view.”
“We hope this approach inspires other regional projects, policy makers, and funders to consider a wide range of factors in their efforts to boost resilience,” said Dr Bjorn Sturmberg, technical lead on the SURF project with the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program at The Australian National University.
The selected sites all ranked highly in terms of vulnerability (e.g. high residential occupancy rates, lots of elderly, people with disability, numerous critical loads) as well as having high rates of solar installations and at least one microgrid option that is relatively tractable.
The sites were selected through a consortium-wide process of quantitative and qualitative analysis and consultation with the Eurobodalla Shire Council.
The method used to collate these assessments and inform the selection decision is freely available here