05/10/2016 - 13:11

Powerful case for microgrid tech

05/10/2016 - 13:11

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Western Australia is emerging as a market leader in the uptake of microgrid technology in electricity markets, with recent announcements by Horizon Power and Carnegie Wave Energy part of broader moves across the sector.

Powerful case for microgrid tech
NEW HORIZONS: Frank Tudor says technological disruption presents an opportunity for Horizon Power. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Western Australia is emerging as a market leader in the uptake of microgrid technology in electricity markets, with recent announcements by Horizon Power and Carnegie Wave Energy part of broader moves across the sector.

Microgrids are either independent from, or capable of operating independently from, larger networks, connecting users to distributed energy sources and potentially storage options.

Last month, Carnegie secured a $2.5 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency for a wave and solar power microgrid it hopes to develop on Garden Island.

That will include a battery storage component and the most recent iteration of its wave power generator, Ceto 6, which has a capacity of up to 3 megawatts.

In the longer term, Carnegie aims to export similar systems overseas, particularly to island nations such as Mauritius, which often run on expensive diesel generation systems.

Also in September, state government-backed Horizon Power revealed it had revised a blueprint for a new generator at Onslow, to include at least 50 per cent renewable generation and battery storage in what was touted to be the biggest microgrid in Australia.

It came five years after Chevron agreed to stump up $105 million for the facility in its Wheatstone state agreement, in which it had intended to build an all-gas power station.

The state government and Chevron reviewed that arrangement, however, with Horizon Power now controlling the project and a 5.25MW gas-powered modular station to underpin the network.

Testing

Horizon Power managing director Frank Tudor said there were two factors that made the company an ideal testing bed for new technology.

“New technology is going to be economically applicable to our systems before it can be economically applied anywhere else, because our systems are inherently high cost,” Mr Tudor told Business News.

“In a lot of cases people might struggle to justify some of this technology … because you’ve got differential ownership.

“We are vertically integrated, so we can make sense of what makes best sense economically for the system.”

Mr Tudor said technological disruption was an opportunity for the business, as it would otherwise face problems due to the huge area it was required to cover. The potential to export the technological know-how into overseas markets via licensing was an added aspect, he said.

“We are kind of unique because we’re a first-world country, but because of our distances we have these remote microgrids that you wouldn’t normally expect to see in a first world country,” Mr Tudor said.

As storage and other costs come down, the price of electricity on microgrids will become competitive with networks, while intelligent management systems would be able to factor in all sorts of information, including the weather.

Energy consumer services lead at professional services company Accenture, Charlie Richardson, said Australia tended to be a market leader in distributed generation.

“WA due to the geographic limitations and dispersion of the population, it’s a natural market place for these sorts of things to happen, Mr Richardson told Business News.

“Things that are happening within the marketplace there are on par with what you’re seeing around Europe, particularly the Netherlands and Nordic countries.”

Mr Richardson said recent Accenture research had suggested millennials were much more likely than older generations to want technology solutions in their energy usage, suggesting the market would continue to grow.

Business News reported in August that Scarborough-based Power Ledger would be trialling blockchain technology it had created to track point to point energy movements through networks to enable peer-to-peer sales.

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