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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.

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.

Stakeholders

  • 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.

  • DISER

    This project is supported by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and C4NET through the Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund Program.

  • Powercor

    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.

  • 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

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

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

Events

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

Milestones

The study is divided into 12 different projects.

1. Project Commencement

Melbourne University

Summary

Project start – stakeholder launch event.

Start Date: 14/09/2021
Stop Date: 15/09/2021

Status:
Complete ✓

2. Community Engagement

Summary

A mix of surveys, interviews, community meetings and information updates for energy consumers impacted to determine energy needs, appeal of various trade-offs, what changes to current supply could be accepted and behavioural change elements . Willingness to participate will be measured against factors such as energy literacy, values and aspirations.

Status:
In Progress ⋅⋅⋅

3. Network Assessment

Summary

Assess the current and forecast status of supply to Donald and Tarnagulla. This will include grid and customer characteristics, demand peak, volume, events impact, known constraints, and power quality analysis.

Status:
Complete ✓

4. Area Hosting Capacity Assessment

Summary

For each town, model different hosting scenarios for self-generation including solar, diesel/gas gen-sets, storage and demand response options and network synchronous needs

Status:
Complete ✓

5. Islanding Design and Cost Analysis

Summary

Define the optimal location for islanding point, design elements, the cost of doing so (hardware, installation and ongoing operational), and network connection assessment.

Status:
In Progress ⋅⋅⋅

6. Stakeholder Impact Investigation

Summary

Includes customer critical needs analysis and the microgrid’s ability to prioritise supply ranking if islanding occurs (eg hospital, life support premises, commercial/residential considerations), impact on business attractiveness, regulatory requirements for de-energising and re-energising.

Start Date: 01/10/2021

Status:
Yet to Begin ✕

7. Microgrid Impact Study

Summary

Model microgrid impact (full-time, partial, and status quo), covering both the islanding component and its impact on the broader network. Will consider event-driven microgrid appeal such as high bushfire danger days and how many critical event days are likely to occur, cost of covering them etc.

Start Date: 01/10/2021

Status:
Yet to Begin ✕

8. Economic and Risk Assessment

Summary

Includes analysis of the value potential created, investment required, alternatives (including network storage etc) and community effects (impact on all grid-users) and risks.

Start Date: 01/04/2022

Status:
Yet to Begin ✕

9. Concentrated Generation Impact (Demonstration)

Summary

Install up to 1 MW commercial rooftop and 500 kW solar systems in priority hosting areas. Customers/third party providers will invest but incentives will be designed to highly encourage participation. Any site will be subject to network permission to connect and customer acceptance.

Status:
In Progress ⋅⋅⋅

10. Concentrated Storage Impact (Demonstration)

Summary

Install either network side or customer side batteries (with network operational control under certain conditions) co-located with solar above.

Status:
In Progress ⋅⋅⋅

11. Recommendations to Regulators

Summary

Report impacts of potential regulatory changes the study identifies to drive the economic, power and social outcomes sought.

Start Date: 01/10/2022

Status:
Yet to Begin ✕

12. Microgrid Assessment Tool Development

Summary

Develop a tool that would help any similar regional town understand how well-suited they are for microgrids from the analysis performed in this study.

Start Date: 01/10/2022

Status:
Yet to Begin ✕

Project Completion

Summary

Final revision of microgrid design, economic and risk analysis, customer participation statistics and regulatory findings based on inputting final data from DER (generation and storage) sites. Final report compilation.

Start Date: 30/04/2023

Status:
Yet to Begin ✕

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