Two regional Victorian towns, Donald and Tarnagulla, are to take part in a trial with a local network operator that could see them become the biggest communities so far to cut ties with the grid and rely on local renewables and storage.
The trial is being co-ordinated by the Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET), an initiative founded by the Victorian government that aims to bring business, communities and research organisations together to find innovative ways of decarbonising electricity supply.
A new rule change working its way through the system will allow network operators to service remote customers, such as farms, with “stand alone power systems.” But it will also be applicable to larger communities, and Donald and Tarnagulla, could be the first in line.
Both towns are located near Bendigo, but are at the end of long rural power lines, which apart from being costly to maintain, also carry risks of failure due to storms, bushfires and dust. It is clear that solar and storage offers a cheaper and more reliable option, and the regulatory barriers are now being removed.
Other towns in Victoria, such as Yackandandah and Newstead, have been talking about sourcing 100 per cent renewables for their electricity needs, but within the overall grid structure.
C4NET chief executive James Seymour said the aim of the trial was primarily to learn about how microgrids can be used, and to apply that knowledge more widely. He said the towns were chosen primarily because the communities were already actively engaged in the energy transition.
“The findings are all public,” he said. “If more towns can solve their challenges with microgrids in future and do it more efficiently because they’ve been informed by the study, then fantastic.”
If successful, the towns, which are both west of Bendigo, could be cut off from the main grid altogether, with a combination of solar generation and battery storage the most likely replacement energy source – although Seymour was keen to stress C4NET had an open minde about the outcome of the three-year trials.
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