he small town of Heyfield, 200km east of Melbourne, will be the guinea pig for a new micro-grid technology trial that will reduce its dependence on the main grid, and help it rely more on local renewable energy and battery storage technology,
The town, with a population of just over 1,000, has offered itself for a three year feasibility study funded by the federal government and led by the University of Technology Sydney.
The aim is to create a high-tech microgrid combining renewable energy and battery storage with Internet of Things devices to monitor and control the network.
It will be funded with $1.8 million from the federal government’s Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund, which put aside just over $50 million to fund microgrid trials around Australia. The Latrobe Valley Authority is also contributing to the study.
Dr Scott Dwyer, research lead at UTS’ Institute for Sustainable Future, says the plan is to use Heyfield as a test case that could be replicated in other communities.
“Our institute’s mission is to help organisations move towards a more sustainable future. That’s why we are very interested in making sure this is a replicable process,” he said.
ISF has been looking for a suitable community to conduct this sort of trial, and Heyfield stood out because it had a history of active interest in renewable energy. In 2010 it launched the “Sustainable Smart Town” program that encouraged locals to improve their energy efficiency, which drove uptake of rooftop solar.
Of the 15 businesses in the town, Dwyer said 10 now have rooftoop solar installed, including the pub and grocery store. A third of households also have rooftop solar.
The study will use smart metre technology developed by Wattwatchers to monitor the town’s energy usage.
It was Wattwatchers that secured the funding from the government, and they will play a lead role in the trial. Network distribution operator Ausnet are also involved.
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