Simon Hackett shifts Tasmania farm to solar microgrid, with 27 ZBM2 batteries

A Tasmanian sheep and cattle farm is pairing a 100kW ground-mounted solar system with 270kWh of zinc bromine flow battery storage, to slash its use of grid power, and prepare for a shift to 100 per cent electric utility and farm vehicles.

The renewable microgrid has been designed by the property’s owner, Simon Hackett, who also happens to be the largest shareholder in ASX-listed Redflow, the manufacturer of the 27 ZMB2 batteries that will make up the storage component of the system.

The 73-hectare north-west Tasmanian property, which is called The Vale, is adding the microgrid as it looks to diversify into additional forms of agriculture, including a possible expansion into eco-tourism operations.

Hackett – who also has a solar and ZMB2 battery system at his Adelaide office – says the plan with The Vale energy system (which will remain grid connected) is to create energy independence for the farm.

“The project, with an overall budget of around $1 million, will include the building of a new site-wide microgrid. This will use new underground power interconnects to link seven distinct buildings across the whole property,” Hackett said in a statement.

One of the key purposes of the The Vale energy system, however, will be to support a transition to electric vehicles, of which Hackett is also a huge supporter and early adopter.

“We already have a Tesla Model S at the property and we plan to progressively replace our existing fleet of diesel farm ATVs, utes, and tractors with electric versions as soon they become available,” he said.

“We read with interest earlier this year that Toyota is committed to making electric HiLux 4WD vehicles and we would love to take delivery of the first of those to reach Australian shores.

Hackett said the microgrid, which will initially send much of its solar power to the Tasmanian grid, will be programmed to automatically switch to off-grid mode during any network power failures. It will also be built read to expand.

“We can and will add more renewable energy generation using solar and/or wind if required in the future. Even after the full replacement of diesel vehicles with electric ones, we expect the property to be a net exporter of electrical energy to the Tasmanian grid,” he said.

As we reported here, Redflow last week delivered its FY19 results presentation, marking the end of a tough but “pivotal year” building up the company’s commercialisation strategy.

The company weighed a 54 per cent decline in annual revenue against a number of “significant milestones,” including the ramping up of production capabilities at its Thailand factory, and a shift in focus to customers that valued the difference offered by zinc bromine flow battery technology.

The main focus for the battery maker going forward will be on industrial and remote off-grid energy storage applications, such as telecommunications, which the company’s CEO Time Harris said held enormous opportunity for sales in the future, particularly in the Asian and African markets.

Meanwhile, the company will continue to chip away at the residential, commercial and off-grid markets in Australia, using projects like The Vale microgrid as working examples.

“I am convinced, based on my deep experience with Redflow, that ZBM2 batteries at the core of this energy system can deliver the hardworking energy storage and longevity to make this investment pay off over the long term,” Hackett said last week.

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