Microgrid trial to run university on 100% renewables
Monash University has partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Indra Australia to trial a microgrid at its Clayton campus. ARENA will provide $2.97 million in funding for the $7.1 million Monash Smart Energy City project, which will see the campus powered by renewable energy in a step towards becoming emissions-free by 2030.
With over 55,000 visitors per day and hundreds of classrooms, lecture theatres, gyms, laboratories, restaurants, a pool and a cinema, the campus consumes a lot of energy.
Using Indra’s Advanced Grid Management software platform, the microgrid will enable control of various distributed energy resources (DER) deployed as part of the Net Zero Initiative, including a 1 MW array of solar panels, 20 buildings with automated energy management systems, electric vehicle chargers and a 1 MW battery.
Indra Australia’s Energy Solutions Manager Giovanni Polizzi said, “We are pleased to be a key technology partner in this leading initiative in which Indra’s intelligence leverages edge computing using both centralised and distributed components to monitor and control distributed grid elements in real time. It will allow Monash to control and optimise when and how energy is used across the campus.”
The smart network aims to show that a 100% renewable electricity system can operate reliably, provide value to consumers and reduce strain on the energy network.
As well as encouraging other universities to transition to renewable energy, the project is hoped to affect the area surrounding Monash University. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Ken Sloan said, “What we are hoping is this program will not only affect what happens within the boundary of this campus, but also spill over the road into other parts of the precinct, so that when we get to 2030, we will not only be talking about Monash as a net zero campus, but Monash as a city well on its way to being a net zero city.”
Findings from the project will help inform ARENA’s work to integrate behind the meter assets into the broader energy network, as Australia moves towards an increasingly distributed energy system. ARENA also recently launched the Distributed Energy Integration Program (DEIP) with energy market authorities, industry bodies and consumer associations.
Phil Cohn, ARENA Investment Director, said he believes the Monash University microgrid will become a flagship project in the agency’s DER portfolio.
Cohn said it addresses three critical issues: “Firstly, the technical integration of DER assets so they communicate with the grid and each other to make the system stronger. Secondly, extracting maximum value from the services DER can provide by participating in different markets. And thirdly, improving our understanding of customer preferences and responses to pricing signals.”
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