microgrid
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Australia’s energy minister has announced that a AUS$10 million renewable energy-powered microgrid will be developed in Western Australia’s Mid West.The microgrid will serve the coastal town of Kalbarri, which is currently supplied with power via a 140km-long electricity line, which can be unreliable. [Australian island considers becoming 100% renewable]

According to a release, the microgrid project will combine wind and solar power with a large-scale battery, and will be closely observed to see how the technology could benefit other towns in WA, said energy minister Mike Nahan.

He added: “This is a game changer for regional communities who rely on power from a long feeder line, which is subject to environmental factors that can cause outages.

“The project, which has the potential to be Australia’s biggest renewable microgrid, will consider all generation options and take into account the community’s desire for a renewable solution.”

Cost effective solution

According to Darren Gladman, Clean Energy Council director of smart energy, microgrids are more “cost effective, safer an secure,” than traditional poles and wires.

Gladman said: “The once-in-50-year storm in South Australia that demolished more than 20 huge electricity pylons demonstrates the vulnerability of traditional energy systems to extreme weather events.

“Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina several years ago, New York State is working on a series of microgrids like those in Kalbarri, which will increase the resilience of its electricity system.”

Western Power will seek expressions of interest from next month, with construction expected to begin in 2017.

Microgrid tech

In related news, Australia’s first community mini grid was launched in April this year by AusNet Services managing director, Nino Ficca and Victorian energy minister Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP. [Australian utility moves from coal to off-grid solar and smart meters]

According to an AusNet release, the community mini grid trial is aimed at demonstrating how homes with residential solar systems and batteries can generate, store and share renewable energy amongst themselves, as a ‘mini grid’ via their local powerlines.

Mr. Ficca said: “AusNet Services is excited to partner with the community to develop systems that may give consumers the choice to share their solar-generated electricity with their communities, potentially lower their bills and support the electricity network.”