Donald and Tarnagulla Microgrid Feasibility Study

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.

Communities are becoming increasingly aware of alternative energy supplies to either enhance their existing supply or to explore alternative supply options, such as microgrids. Distribution Businesses (DBs) often receive queries on exploring microgrid opportunities for their communities. Several community groups across the Loddon-Mallee area have sought to investigate whether microgrids are a better energy solution for their electricity needs.

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.

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

The project is a balance between the technical, cultural and social elements of understanding the feasibility of microgrids. In-depth project milestones include community engagement, area hosting capacity assessment, concentrated generation and storage impact, network assessment, islanding design and cost analysis, microgrid impact study, stakeholder impact investigation, economic and risk assessment, microgrid assessment tool development and recommendations to regulators. The project will run for approximately 3 years.

This feasibility study is supported by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and C4NET.

Community Needs

The Donald and Tarnagulla Microgrid Feasibility Study project seeks to deeply engage two contrasting communities in the Loddon-Mallee area (Donald and Tarnagulla) to listen and understand their needs and desires in relation to their future electricity supply with respect to their social and cultural values.

Real data from the Donald and 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. When complete, the assessment tool will be open source and free for any community organisation, or the wider industry, to use to help advance their new energy needs.

Community Data

Donald (1034 customers, 76% domestic) is fed mid-way along a long rural feeder from the Charlton Zone Substation. The 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 community of Tarnagulla (147 customers, 80% domestic) is at the end of a long rural line fed by the Maryborough Zone Substation. The Maryborough Zone Substation is fed in a sub-transmission loop from Bendigo and Castlemaine.

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


An appealing aspect of the project is that it will bring together various stakeholders providing their expertise including:

Centre for New Energy Technology (C4Net)

The project lead, and a community leader in the promotion of new energy. C4Net favours evidence-based policy decision making and will data to inform the feasibility of microgrids.

Powercor Australia


The electricity distribution network servicing western Victoria. Powercor will support and explore the technical feasibility of converting part of a grid to microgrid configuration for the communities. Considerable data and network insights will assist the project, including community and stakeholder engagement advice and support.


Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance (CVGA)

A network of 13 local governments leading the way in addressing and driving action on climate change. CVGA will organise bulk buy opportunities for consumers and deploy and broaden learnings across the region.



An experienced energy asset owner and operator that is passionate about lowering the barriers to renewable energy adoption for businesses and large energy consumers across Australia. Ovida will assist with the uptake of solar and batteries for businesses within the communities.

Buloke Shire

Buloke Shire Council

Home to study site, Donald. The shire is in an area where energy security and reliability are considerable challenges for the community.

Loddon Shire Council

Loddon Shire Council

Home to study site, Tarnagulla. The shire is in an area where energy security and reliability are considerable challenges for the community.

Researchers specialised in Energy, IT, Engineering, Social Science and Economics from C4NET’s research members: Deakin University, Monash University, RMIT University, Federation University Australia, University of Melbourne, Swinburne University

Related Events

Launch events will be held where residents, businesses and communities of Donald and Tarnagulla will be invited to gain insights into the Study, provide ideas, as well as meet the Study partners.

Please direct further queries to or James Seymour, CEO C4NET 0427 386 933.

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