Australia is set to become a global source of expertise in the research, development and construction of microgrids following the establishment of the Australian Microgrid Centre of Excellence (AMCOE).
AMCOE, which has been set up as a not-for-profit, will be based in Murdoch University’s Engineering Campus, and will provide the resources necessary to research and develop reliable, economic and sustainable global energy solutions.
Launched in the Perth CBD last night (April 29), co-founder Terry Mohn said the new centre of excellence will propel the microgrids industry to new heights in Australia and abroad.
“The establishment of AMCOE is an amazingly exciting step in the evolution of our domestic and international microgrid industry,” Mr Mohn said.
“It will serve as a catalyst to democratise the supply of energy, challenging the monopoly of supply and the inherent vulnerability that that model brings.
“Additionally, AMCOE can serve as a ‘base’ to coordinate the efforts of all the constituent parts of the sector’s supply chain to further the implementation of successful microgrids. Up until now all the parts of that supply chain have been siloed. AMCOE will work to change that.”
Industry-driven, the establishment of AMCOE has been made possible with the support of numerous partners including Magellan Power, Infranomics, Regional Development Australia, Lithium Valley, Dassault Systems, General Microgrids, South Metropolitan TAFE, Murdoch University, Arnowa, Edith Cowan University, NERA (National Energy Resources Australia), and the Australia Ocean Energy Group. It will serve as a centre of activity and coordination for the organisations – public, private and academic – from Australia and overseas that are addressing distributed or remote energy issues.
The 2019 Federal Budget allocated $50 million to support feasibility studies for microgrids to help power regional and remote communities. A subsequent report by the Western Australia’s Economics and Industry Standing Committee on the emergence and impact of microgrids and associated technologies was foundational for Perth’s impact on the industry.
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Mr Mohn said hosting the centre of excellence in Western Australia was a logical decision.
“WA is the ideal place to base AMCOE as the state’s already home to one of the largest microgrid networks in the world and has easy access to approximately a third of the world’s population just to the north,” he said.
“WA’s maturity in microgrid knowledge puts it far out in front of the other Australian states as evidenced by the success of the microgrid which serves the town of Onslow in the Pilbara where their dependence on the local utility has been halved, with more and more electricity being produced by the local population’s solar panels and stored in batteries.”
The global need for microgrids has become increasingly apparent in the wake of severe weather events destroying traditional grid-based power supplies. After the devastation wrought from hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012) in America, national focus has shifted on to the ability of microgrids to provide a more stable, secure and agile source of energy. The world’s biggest microgrid currently being built to serve JFK airport in New York.
“With global climate change, what were previously viewed as “once in a century” weather events are now becoming “once a decade” events, causing huge destruction and disruption to traditional power supply networks. Microgrids provide a real and more secure alternative,” Mr Mohn said.
“Right now there are thousands of people without power in the Midwest and Wheatbelt area of WA as a result of the Cyclone Seroja. This isn’t a theoretical problem – this is real life and right now.”
AMCOE will champion the development of microgrid and promotes STEM education, awareness, legislative support and advocacy to help manage the impact of this transition. An early focus will be on new regional growth, industry job creation and further developments beyond traditional balkanized industries.
“With approximately a billion people still living without access to electricity, rising electricity costs, and frequent outages, a growing issue for many consumers is how to plan any kind of future when their energy needs are so unstable,” Mr Mohn said.
“I believe AMCOE is well-positioned to change the equation from supply-side economics to customer-side interests, and I’m very excited about new modes of energy supply and management in our microgrid development, deployment and commercialisation activities.”