Excitingly, over the next three years, the Wellington Shire town of Heyfield, through the collaborative Smart Specialisation approach, will lead the testing of the viability of microgrids as a local energy solution, especially for powering other edge-of-grid towns around Australia.
A ‘microgrid’ is the term applied to a group of homes or businesses that generate, use and share electricity. With the ability to be controlled as a single system, microgrids are able to connect and disconnect from the main electricity grid as required. This ability is especially valuable during natural disasters, such as bushfires and floods, when the area may be cut-off from the grid, rendering it powerless.
Additional potential benefits of microgrids include:
— Cost-effective alternative to upgrading/replacing grid.
— More resilient in wake of extreme events.
— Benefits shared among participants.
— Improve the operation and stability of the main grid.
— Supply clean, affordable, reliable energy.
The powerful vision for the MyTown Microgrid in Heyfield
is to “enable the community to understand, design and implement a local
renewable energy system (microgrid) through bringing together
progressive industry, community and research partners.
An example of the Smart Specialisation collaborative approach is the pre-feasibility study and community engagement plan for the project developed in partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Sydney for the Heyfield Community Resource Centre (HCRC), which is where you’ll find local powerhouse, Julie Bryer. Not only is the research team seeking a solution for Heyfield, but they aim to develop a replicable model that could benefit similar communities Australia-wide.
“In a changing and warming climate, Heyfield has the chance to be a community leader in renewable energy. We must seek change from the ground up for the future of our planet,” — Heyfield community member.
With a long track record in sustainability initiatives, Heyfield has
one of Australia’s highest penetrations of rooftop solar photovoltaic
systems at a town level. Almost a third of all houses and more than
half of all local businesses have rooftop solar. The Glenmaggie Hydro
Power Station is nearby, and while there currently aren’t any large
scale wind farms, yet, the region has great potential. A solar-powered
amenity block is available at the Heyfield RV Park, again demonstrating
the community’s willpower to utilise local renewable energy. It is an
ideal location to pilot this new approach.
Over the three year duration, the project will also develop the
knowledge and tools to make it faster, easier, and cheaper for other
regional communities to understand the microgrid proposition for their
community. Leading to the MyTown Microgrid approach applied here
empowering other communities in Gippsland and beyond, and, well, that
may just be Heyfield’s superpower.
“For a sustainable future that doesn’t rely upon finite resources,” — Heyfield community member.