Bruny Island solar trial – ANU

Bruny Island solar trial – the tiny island off Tasmania is the site of a new smart solar and battery trial which may be helping shape Australia’s energy future. The combination of solar and battery installations work in conjunction to remove Bruny Island’s traditional reliance on diesel generators. 

Bruny Island solar trial

Bruny Island solar trial
Bruny Island solar trial (source: wikipedia.org)

The trial was done with Australian National University’s battery storage and grid integration program who worked with 40 households (around 3.5% of the amount of homes on Bruny Island) on the island to create a ‘microcosm of a future Australian electricity grid’. This was done by using the Network Aware Coordination (NAC) platform. The NAC consists of a series of ‘smart’ algorithms which can decide how to manage solar+storage (i.e. when to feed back into the grid or charge the battery based on myriad factors such as weather, usage patterns, and what other households’ energy draw/storage is). 

The Bruny Island solar trial wasn’t about fully replacing the diesel generators, but more about supplementing their usage and minimising reliance on diesel during peak times such as summer or a heatwave. 

“In the same way that traffic lights coordinate the flow of cars and trucks on the road, the Network-Aware Coordination platform coordinates the flow of energy from residential solar and batteries to networks and markets to ensure the efficient and reliable operation of the electricity grid,” the ANU said.

Lachlan Blackhall from the ANU discussed the goals of the project:

“The trial of the NAC is about better understanding how to use solar and battery to make the grid more efficient,” Mr. Blackhall was quoted in the Canberra Times. “During Easter, Bruny Island actually required more power than could be supplied by the undersea cable to the island.

“Typically they would use diesel but this program – even with only 3.5 per cent of homes on the island participating – reduced diesel usage by 30 per cent.”

The great results bode well for the future in Australia and also for people wanting to create a microgrid – the software and learnings headed up by the NAC will help ensure the whole grid remains healthy, rather than the more ‘selfish’ policies which we’ve seen other systems use. Looking at the grid as a whole rather than a household means we have a lot more control to share power as evenly as possible and try to minimise reliance on diesel. 

Even though it was a small trial it could scale up quickly without too much effort so the good result of the trial is very heartening. It’ll be interesting to see which size ‘microgrid’ they try and integrate NAC to next! 

General Motors Holden Site – 2MW, 500kWh BESS

Carnegie Clean Energy reported earlier this week that they have secured $3 million in government funding to build a 2MW, 500 kWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at the General Motors Holden site in Elizabeth, South Australia. The funding will come from the Renewable Technology Fund, part of the South Australian Government’s Energy Plan.

Solar microgrid at the General Motors Holden Site 

General Motors Holden Site - Carnegie Battery Energy Storage System Example
General Motors Holden Site – Carnegie Battery Energy Storage System Example (source: carnegiece.com)

The site will provide grid-support services during peak times and, according to Infrastructure Magazine, will operate in tandem with the existing diesel backup generators at Elizabeth. 

Premier of South Australia Jay Weatherill said “This solar and battery project by Carnegie is part of a wave of new investment in South Australia we have leveraged through the $150 million Renewable Technology Fund announced as part of our energy plan.

“Renewable energy projects like this also reduce demand on the grid during peak times, which puts downward pressure on power prices for all South Australians. This project is symbolic of the broader transition we are seeing in our economy away from traditional manufacturing towards high-tech industries creating jobs of the future for South Australians” Weatherill added.

Carnegie’s Managing Director, Dr Michael Ottaviano, said, “We are fielding an increasing number of opportunities that historically were performed by diesel or gas turbines, for which battery systems are now increasingly competitive. The CCE battery solution offers faster response time, lower operating cost, no greenhouse gas pollution, and silent operation. This is Carnegie’s first project in South Australia and means we are now delivering projects right across Australia.”

According to Dr Ottoviano the company will cover approximately 20% of the plant’s roof space initially, but there is no reason they couldn’t end up using the other 80% as well: 

“It’s a way of looking at what formerly would have been just a roof and turning it into an energy production asset,” he said in news.com.au

South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis discussed the effect it and other renewable investments are having on the job market: 

“Jobs are our number one priority and this solar battery project by Carnegie is part of a wave of new investment,” he said.

There have been many exciting developments for South Australian solar over the past 12 months and it’s great to see them keep coming. 

The microgrid is expected to commence operation by December. 

Kalbarri microgrid: Carnegie to build.

The long awaited Kalbarri microgrid will be built this year and launched in 2019, as Renewable energy developer Carnegie Clean Energy have signed a $6.8 million contract with state-owned Western Power to build a 5MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in the area. 

Kalbarri Microgrid

Kalbarri Microgrid Details
Kalbarri Microgrid Details (source: Western Power)

According to the contract, Carnegie’s subsidiary Energy Made Clean will be teaming up with JV partner Lendlease services to build the sustainable energy storage system. It will be able to generate 4.5MWh and a minimum of 2MWh will always be accessible for backup services. 

The BESS facility will have two different modes – “Island Mode”, and “Grid Mode”, with the former allowing operation independent of the electricity grid. Grid mode will do what it says on the tin – helping provide network stabilisation for voltage and frequency to other generation sources. 

Carnegie Clean Energy CEO Dr Michael Ottaviano was ecstatic about winning the contract: 

“We’re excited to have won an extremely competitive, global tender using the latest in storage and control technologies. This reinforces Carnegie’s leadership in the design and delivery of innovative energy solutions in Australia,” he said. 

“(this) contract award comes just over 12 months after the establishment of the EMC/Lendlease JV which has secured $25m in orders in the last 4 weeks with Kalbarri and our Northam Solar Farm. With tender cycles running in excess of 12 months, and a clear focus on delivery of high-value projects for utility grade customers, we are just starting to see the results of our hard work over the past year.” Mr Ottaviano continued. 

West Australian Energy Minister Ben Wyatt also spoke of the BESS microgrid in Kalbarri and how it is a “game changer” for communities “…subject to environmental factors that can cause outages. The improved reliability for the region will boost the local tourism and retail operations, as well as enhance the lifestyle of residents.”

 

Microgrid in Puerto Rico? Tesla Steps In.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria’s landing on Puerto Rico on September 20, the country has been almost completely without power and a majority of the 3.4million residents aren’t able to use fridges, air conditioning, or pump potable water. Enter the possibility of a Microgrid in Puerto Rico – Elon Musk’s Tesla have offered their support to the country by sending hundreds of their Powerwall energy storage batteries – with many already on the ground and more to come. They’re initially being sent to high priority locations such as hospitals which are currently using expensive and hefty gas-powered generators. 

Microgrid in Puerto Rico - Tesla
Tesla Microgrid in Puerto Rico? Electric use in PR before / after Hurricane Maria (source: Inhabitat.com)

Tesla Powerwalls and Puerto Rico

According to news sources such as Bloomberg and Engadget, Tesla is sending hundreds of the Powerwalls to Puerto Rico in an attempt to help shore up its shattered energy infrastructure. The Powerwalls will be paired with solar panels to generate energy while the country works on restoring its main grids. Some of the Powerwalls have already arrived in Puerto Rico and Tesla employees are on the ground assisting in the installation of required infrastructure. According to some sources, grid power won’t return to the entire island for another six months so they’re going to have to look at some options – which may include the full scale renewables – with small grids far more resilient than transmission lines and central grids. These microgrids could be connected to a central grid but also isolated if required. 

Renewable energy expert Tom Rogers told The Washington Post “You look at islands like Dominica, Anguilla, and other islands affected by the recent hurricanes, I’ve spoken to a couple of the utilities, and they say they would prefer to rebuild using distributed generation with storage, and just trying to reduce the amount of transmission lines. Because that’s where their energy systems fail. It’s having these overhead cables.”

Tesla Microgrid in Puerto Rico

After the initial Powerwalls being sent, there have been others talking about the much larger, industrial-size Tesla Powerpack grid scale storage solution and whether this could be an option for the commonwealth moving forwards. Clean Technica report that the island’s utility company, PREPA (Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority), has a massive $9 billion USD in debt to Wall Street and Puerto Rico itself is in debt to the tune of $123 billion (and $74b of them are in defaulted bonds currently in bankruptcy court). In short, the country is in serious financial strife and its grid is virtually worthless. Ricardo Ramos, the CE of PREPA, told CNN the island’s power infrastructure had been basically “destroyed”. 

There’s a possibility of just handing the grid over to its creditors and ‘start again’ – and this could perhaps be the impetus for Tesla to create microgrids across the country with its Powerpack batteries (they scale from 50kW up to 100MWh) – certainly a herculean task but who other than Elon Musk would take something like this on? 

Musk’s team are currently installing Tesla Powerpacks in South Australia under less critical circumstances but it’ll be an interesting litmus test to see if Tesla could roll something out on such a massive scale. 

 

Carnegie’s Garden Island Microgrid starts construction.

Carnegie Clean Energy, whose solar, battery, wave and desalination microgrid plans have been the topic of much discussion since they was announced earlier this year, have commenced construction on their 2MW Perth solar PV / battery energy storage microgrid. Carnegie’s Garden Island Microgrid (GIMG) project will be the largest embedded, grid-connected solar and battery microgrid in Australia.

About the Garden Island Microgrid

According to Carnegie’s website, Carnegie Clean Energy Limited (formerly Carnegie Wave Energy) is an “Australian, ASX-listed (ASX: CCE) developer of utility scale solar, battery, wave and hybrid energy projects.” The website notes that Carnegie is the only company in the world which has a  combination of wave, solar, wind, battery storage and desalination via microgrids.

Carnegie Clean Energy - Garden Island Microgrid
Carnegie Clean Energy – Garden Island Microgrid (source: carnegiece.com)

Using microgrid technology means the project will be able to function independently from the main power grid, and using hybrid sources of energy generation along with storage means they won’t run out of energy if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. The system will have 3MW of solar PV panels and a 2MW battery energy storage system.

Carnegie’s chief exec Michael Ottaviano was quoted earlier this year (at an energy storage conference in Sydney) discussing stand alone power systems (microgrids) – after having installed over a dozen for both Western Power and Horizon Energy. “It is just a cheaper, cleaner more secure solution than the alternative,” Ottaviano said. “The cost of technology is coming down. What was an economic driver for remotes systems, is now true for the fringe of grid and on the main grid too.”

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and Defence Minister Marise Payne released a joint statement which lauded the work done by Carnegie:  “The Government continues to support the work of Carnegie and we look forward to seeing how this project will inform Carnegie’s ability to provide energy security solutions at island locations in the future”.

Carnegie have inked supply agreements with the Department of Defense (in order to supply power and water (via the desalination plant) to HMAS Stirling – Australia’s biggest naval base in Perth, which is home to more than 2,300 service personnel.

Solar Microgrid in South Australia

Earlier this year we reported about LO3 energy setting up Park Slope in Brooklyn with a Solar microgrid, using blockchain technology – and now they are bringing this project to South Australia under the name of TransActive Grid.

Solar Microgrid – how does it work?

TransActive - Solar Microgrid
TransActive – Solar Microgrid (source: Yates Facebook)

LO3 Energy (who set up business in Australia last year after success in the US), will be partnering with Yates Electrical Services to offer up to 6MW of ‘distributed soar generation’ via blockchain technology – effectively taking a big step towards a full-scale transactive energy market independent of the current grid – one where consumers are able to set the price they’re willing to pay for renewable energy, rather than being ‘stuck’ to the current grid system. This is all underpinned by the blockchain – which allows a decentralised, secure, p2p marketplace to function. If you want more technical details there’s a great paper on the MIT website entitled ‘Blockchain Applications to Solar Panel Energy: Landscape Analysis’.

According to RenewEconomy, the 6MW of solar energy will be built by Redmud Green Energy with the investment money being put up by Chinese backers. Yates gave an example to One Step Off The Grid in an interview earlier this week – where a local irrigator installed solar and was able to create some massive savings: “He was paying between 25-30c/kWh for his electricity, and now we can give him a fixed rate of around 7.5c/kWh. And not only can he save on his electricity consumption, but he can can sell his excess solar if he wants to.”

Belinda Kinkead, director of LO3’s Australian operations, was quoted on the Yates Facebook page as saying: “This is a significant agreement and shows there is great interest in the concept of putting energy choice in the hands of consumers.” Yates say that the project has the potential to open up over 1,000 residences and businesses in South Australia (in the Riverlands) to operate on the LO3 microgrid. With the rapidly rising cost of electricity and huge increases in both blockchain and renewable technology over the past few years, it’ll be exciting to see how this test goes and how much LO3 are able to grow it over the coming years.

 

Microgrid in NYC using blockchain technology launched.

Some interesting news out of Brooklyn this week as a group of residents and local businesses have banded together to create their own ‘microgrid’ – powered by the exciting new technology known as the blockchain.

Solar Microgrid

Siemens Digital Grid Division have set up the Park Slope area of Brooklyn with a full physical microgrid which includes battery storage, converters, control systems, and smart meters. The microgrid involves decentralised distributed energy generation and is able to exist and function completely outside the conventional regional power grid. Theoretically this could work for entire cities who would be able to use their own energy for residents, and even make money by selling it back to the central grid if required.

Administration is also quite simple (this is a bit of a relative term but when you consider the inherent challenges of such a system it is a very neat fit) – this microgrid technology is powered by the cheap to run and impossible to forge Blockchain – which is also used for decentralised currencies such as Bitcoin. The Park Slope blockchain platform has been set up and is being managed by LO3 Energy.

LO3 Energy Microgrid Brooklyn
LO3 Energy

About the blockchain

LO3 Energy will be using the blockchain to run what they call a “TransActive Grid” – which ensures each energy transaction is securely timestamped. This allows every movement of energy, however small, to be securely documented and applied to the correct account. The energy will be purchasable under an auction agreement where one of the ~50 homeowners/businesses are able to set a maximum price per kWh and receive energy accordingly. Lithium Ion energy storage will back up the microgrid in situations where there isn’t enough power being generated. In the event of no energy storage being available they are also connected to the main energy grid where they’re able to feed and receive power at general rates.

Potential further application of blockchain technology in the solar industry

The Park Slope project’s goal is to have 1,000 participants by next year – with a commensurate increase in the amount of battery storage and solar PV systems. LO3 Energy were quoted as saying they hope to make it possible “to establish a self-sufficient power supply for the microgrid in the event of a city-wide blackout’. It’ll be interesting to see how much power they’re able to generate, how much the average price per kWh ends up being, how much they still need to buy from the grid (or how much they make selling excess back in peak times). There are lots of variables which will help us see how viable this is with the current cost of PV solar and energy storage, and how well it will complement the existing grid.