Alice Springs Future Grid gets big battery for microgrid trial

Solar panels from DKA Solar Centre in the Alice Spring Future Grid project
DKA Solar Centre (Image: Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy)

The Alice Springs Future Grid project is procuring a 300kW/358kWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS), which will facilitate the transformation of the Desert Knowledge Precinct into a local microgrid. 

The innovative technical challenge will help the Future Grid team demonstrate how a commercial microgrid at a multi-tenanted site can operate when connected to, and “islanded” from, the main grid. Questions that will be explored include who is responsible for power supply during islanding, and what would billing arrangements look like for tenants? 

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The battery will store electricity generated by the DKA Solar Centre. It can then either release it back into the network as required, support key operations at the Desert Knowledge Precinct for some time when islanded, or provide grid support functions. 

Future Grid project director Lyndon Frearson, from Alice Springs engineering firm Ekistica, said it was a significant development for the DKA Solar Centre. 

“We have been demonstrating solar technology from all over the world since 2008 at this site,” Frearson said. 

“Now we get to explore the possibilities offered by complementing that existing technology with battery capability.” 

The lithium-ion BESS is similar to other larger commercial batteries installed across NT communities in recent years. Manufactured by Rolls-Royce Power Systems, the mtu BESS is supplied by the engineering, procurement and construction contractor, Penske Australia, which is also the exclusive national distributor of mtu products. 

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The Future Grid project can be described as a series of trials, models, and investigations; of which this Commercial Microgrid trial is one. Procurement of the BESS represents the final major equipment procurement effort for the project which has also installed wind monitoring units, cloud cameras to aid solar forecasting, and is currently creating the Northern Territory’s first Virtual Power Plant. 

Project delivery is coordinated by the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy, on behalf of Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA). Future Grid Consortium Member Ekistica is delivering the Commercial Microgrid trial. The Future Grid project is supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Government.