Regional microgrids

Understanding local community needs such as reliability, cost and self-sufficiency is a key element in setting up a community microgrid.

Powercor has been working with the Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET) to undertake a feasibility study of converting part of a grid to microgrid configuration for the communities in the Loddon-Mallee area, Donald and Tarnagulla.

Understanding local community needs such as reliability, cost and self-sufficiency are key elements in setting up a community microgrid. This project seeks to engage the two contrasting communities to listen and understand their needs in relation to their future electricity supply with respect to their social and cultural values.

Rural and regional communities tend to be at the end of the grid or have long distribution lines, leading to quality deterioration of the electricity supply. These communities and their businesses are seeking a balance of reliable, sustainable and low-cost electricity tailored to their needs.

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Microgrids are becoming increasingly commercially feasible in Australia under certain circumstances, in part driven by technical and cost improvements. However, their analysis is complex and balancing the needs, benefits and costs across the varied stakeholder groups is a challenge.

There is also lack of understanding on microgrid reliability, benefits, operation, ownership and the governing market rules.

Community members gather to learn more about microgrids

 

The project is a balance between the technical, cultural and social elements of understanding the feasibility of microgrids and will run for approximately 3 years.

Real data from the Donald & Tarnagulla community behavioural elements will be incorporated to inform the feasibility study. This will in turn help identify regulatory and market type barriers and constraints. Furthermore, a microgrid assessment tool and metric will be developed to determine the microgrid suitability in other towns.

A final report on the trial is expected at the end of 2022.

FAQs

What is a microgrid?

Microgrids are an independent power network that uses local, distributed energy resources to provide grid backup or off-grid power to meet local electricity needs.

The system must generate electricity via one, or a combination of, fossil fuels and renewable resources (e.g. wind, solar, hydro). It must have a distribution method to get power to where it is needed and a method of dealing with excess energy produced (e.g. battery storage) or a way to provide that energy back to the grid. It must also have consumers for its electricity.

Why were Donald and Tarnagulla chosen?

Donald (1034 customers, 76% domestic) is fed mid-way along a long rural feeder from the Charlton Zone Substation. Charlton Zone Substation itself is fed from a single very long radial sub-transmission line from Bendigo, which has a high reliability risk.

The smaller Tarnagulla (147 customers, 80% domestic) at the end of a long rural line is fed by the Maryborough Zone Substation. Maryborough Zone substation is fed in a sub-transmission loop from Bendigo and Castlemaine and consequently has a lower reliability risk than Charlton.

These contrasting towns have been selected based on their strong community aspirations for new energy solutions.

Furthermore, the Loddon and Buloke Shires fall within an area where energy security and reliability are considerable challenges for their council and community with residents and businesses experiencing frequent outages.

What other stakeholders are involved in this study?
  • Powercor
  • The Centre for New Energy Technology (C4NET)
  • The Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance (CVGA)
  • Ovida
  • Buloke Shire council
  • Loddon Shire councils
  • C4NET’s research members of Deakin University, Monash University, RMIT University, Federation University Australia, the University of Melbourne and Swinburne University of Technology
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