Kioloa and Bawley Point on the NSW south coast are the testing ground for network company Endeavour Energy’s first microgrid, a system it hopes will protect the townships from bushfires – and tourist-induced blackouts.
The $8 million microgrid will create a backup network for the communities when grid power fails, and when it needs to be supplemented during peak holiday seasons.
When Endeavour initially said it would fast-track the project in March 2022 the bill was $4.8 million.
It consists of a 3 MW/ 3 MWh grid battery which will rely on residential distributed energy resources (DER) of 2 MW of residential solar and 430 kW/1.2 MWh of subsidised residential batteries installed in around 100 homes.
The grassroots-led initiative took two years to plan and is the first in the state.
Federal MP Fiona Phillips congratulated the communities for working since the bushfires in 2019/20 to get this project off the ground.
“I know that resilience in the face of natural disasters has been front of mind for local people, particularly when it comes to electricity. Having reliable power sources, which give us reliable telecommunication sources, is crucial,” she said.
The Bawley Point/Kioloa communities were “uniquely positioned to receive the maximum benefit of this type of initiative”, says Endeavour future grid strategy manager Dr James Hazelton.
“The community is at the end of a long electricity line. Bawley Point and Kioloa are connected to the nearest substation by overhead lines through about 35km of bushland. This can result in the community experiencing more outages due to being at the edge of the grid along with bushfires and storms,” he says.
The enduring struggle for Endeavour, however, comes more from peak holiday periods when it has to supplement the power supply to the normally small and isolated townships with a 1 MVA diesel generator.
Hazelton says the microgrid will now, largely, handle that.
Furthermore periods of very low demand during the sunny shoulder seasons, when rooftop solar drives down residential grid electricity needs, is causing large voltage swings, he says.
“The microgrid’s storage and management platforms will assist the network in hosting more solar. The large grid-scale battery will assist Endeavour Energy in balancing the network.
“We also have several larger customers looking to install solar in the area, so this will allow the microgrid to support the community for longer while islanded.”
Endeavour expects to call on the DER-based virtual power plant (VPP) up to 20 times a year to smooth out demand peaks.
The project was funded by Endeavour Energy and the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery (BLER) Fund.
The memory of the bushfires, when power was cut to the communities for days, looms large, with the local NSW and the federal MPs referencing living through that frightening period.
“As a resident of Bawley Point I lived through the 2019/2020 bushfires and know first-hand what it’s like to be without power for days. When the power goes out, we can’t carry out the basics such as boil water, flush the toilet, and in times of emergency, we also lose telecommunications and our water source,” says NSW South Coast MP Liza Butler.