Microgrid to Help Australian Farmers Tackle Energy Pain Points

Oct. 8, 2018
Sophie Vorrath, deputy editor of One Step off the Grid, describes a newly funded demonstration microgrid to help Australian farmers.

Sophie Vorrath, deputy editor of One Step off the Grid, describes a newly funded demonstration microgrid to help Australian farmers.

A Victorian solar and storage microgrid project geared at helping Australian farmers to tackle energy-related “pain points,” including rising power prices and unreliable supply, has won state government backing.

Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio said on Wednesday that agriculture co-op Birchip Cropping Group would receive $210,000 to develop the project at its local facility in the Mallee region.

The microgrid, including 51 kW of solar and 137 kWh of battery storage capacity, will be developed by energy technology company SwitchDin and commercial microgrid developer Walnut Energy.

The project is the latest to win state funding from the Andrews Labor government’s Microgrid Demonstration Initiative (MDI), which supports projects that “showcase the use of energy storage in different settings and in combination with complementary technologies.”

Other recipients include Origin Energy, for its plans to establish what it says will be Victoria’s largest virtual power plant – a $20 million cloud-based platform that will tap around 5 MW of the battery-stored solar power of up to 650 customers during periods of peak power demand.

And in the northeastern Victorian town of Euroa, local collective Euroa Environment Group, won backing for a $6 million microgrid project to install 589 kW of solar PV and up to 400 kWh of battery storage.

According to a statement from SwitchDin, the Birchip project aims to demonstrate the value of energy resilience and self-sufficiency for rural industries.

This will include testing the “islanding” capabilities of the microgrid — in which it cuts itself off from the grid to keep power on in the event of a network outage.

“Rural industries create jobs which rely heavily on access to affordable electricity,” said SwitchDin CEO Andrew Mears in a statement on Wednesday. “Solar and battery storage in microgrids are a cost-effective and flexible option to ensure farmers can grow and develop their businesses.

“SwitchDin ensures that microgrid systems will be smart, flexible, and integrate seamlessly with the grid – regardless of the solar or battery products used. We also ensure that these systems are ready for energy market opportunities,” Mears said.

BCG which describes itself as “all about assisting farmers” through innovations and new technologies, said it was excited about building a microgrid, and looking forward to engaging with others keen to explore the technology.

“Energy security and pricing for farms, especially farms with intensive poultry, is vital to their business,” the company said in a statement.

“BCG are delighted to work with the Victorian Government and the project partners in finding solutions to some of the current pain points.”

The project is set to be completed and operating by mid 2019.

This article orginated on One Step off the Grid and was reposted with permission.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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