The biggest barrier to microgrid deployment
The establishment of viable business cases for different applications is the main barrier to the continued uptake of microgrids in Australia, according to Carnegie Clean Energy Executive General Manager Greg Allen*.
Allen has 20 years’ experience in engineering, specifically in business development and operational experience in the industrial plant and equipment, and solar industries. At Carnegie Clean Energy, he oversees all the company’s commercialisation activities.
Microgrids are having a major impact on the energy sector by improving reliability and efficiency, and supporting ageing infrastructure, said Allen.
“They will increase the penetration of renewable energy, that’s a given, but without compromising quality and reliability of supply. So they’ll offer those alternatives, we’ll get higher levels of renewable energy penetration with the same, if not better, levels of quality and reliability supply,” Allen said.
According to Allen, the biggest challenge for the development and implementation of microgrids is actually establishing a viable business case for different applications, because the viability of a business case is dependent on the difference between average and peak demand in that location.
“Generally, in terms of economic drivers, there needs to be something more than just reducing the cost of supply of electricity. It needs something around a reliability improvement that ultimately has a cost, but it’s very hard to sometimes put a value on the cost of that reliability improvement.”
Pure diesel microgrids have been deployed on remote cattle stations throughout Australia for many years. The next step is turning them into high-penetration renewable microgrids, and that’s all about justifying the business case to increase the penetration of renewables, or putting renewables on and then increasing their penetration, he said.
Allen said that while microgrid technology is established in the industry, factors such as regulation have the potential to affect implementation.
“The technologies all exist and we’re comfortable with those technologies. Integrating the technologies, managing the risk of integrating technologies of the various sources of generation on the systems, is all within engineering capability, and the products exist to do that. But one of the key challenges is actually coming up with the right configuration that essentially makes business sense, as opposed to technical sense.”
Ahead of his upcoming presentation at the Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition 2018, Allen said the future for microgrids involves integrating high levels of renewables, which has begun to move forward thanks to a reduction in solar costs, and technological advances.
“Battery energy storage technologies and the associated microgrid control architecture enables you to automatically dispatch and make decisions on which piece of kit is the best, which generation kit is best to dispatch at that time, and match the load in the most efficient and stable way.
“The final piece is then managing the electrical protection aspects of those systems so that you can provide the same level of safety and protection as has been afforded to those customers using traditional fossil fuel technologies. This does require some rethinking on how you provide that electrical protection, given the generation sources are moving from reciprocating or rotating machinery to inverter-based technologies.”
*Greg Allen will be discussing these issues, and more, in his presentation at the Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition. This must-attend industry event will be held from 23–24 May at the Adelaide Convention Centre. To register for the conference or free exhibition, visit www.australianenergystorage.com.au/register.
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