By Karl Brown, InStyle Solar CEO and co-founder
Once the poster child for fossil fuels, gas and oil, Australia’s energy supply is on the precipice of a renewable revolution. Over two million, or one in five, of Australian households now have rooftop solar, according to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Just like smartphones, the popularity of solar panels and battery storage continues to grow each year, as solar photovoltaic technology becomes cheaper, more installers enter the market and product innovations come into effect. Put into perspective, the Australian National University found in Australia renewable energy is growing at a per capita rate 10 times faster than the world average.
While the traditional energy grid was designed for coal-fired power stations, the rapid implementation of renewables impacts grid security. The industry is looking to alternatives – and microgrids and smart energy generation are predicted to be the next big thing in Australia’s electricity supply.
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What’s a microgrid?
A microgrid is a local energy grid with control capacity – allowing it to disconnect and operate autonomously from the traditional energy grid.
A microgrid generally operates while connected to the grid at a single point, but it can break off and operate on its own in times of crisis like storms or power outages. Microgrids are typically powered using generators, batteries or renewable resources like solar within the network.
From a couple of buildings to a whole town or suburb, the long-term goal is that the energy generated by solar panels and stored in homes batteries within microgrids can be shared between neighbourhoods – even those without their own panels. Just last month, AusNet Services launched Australia’s first microgrid trial in the Melbourne suburb of Mooroolbark.
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Future of microgrids in Australia
Last year, Australia’s traditional energy grid teetered on the edge of widespread blackouts on several occasions as record temperatures, devastating bushfires and violent storms battered the country. Australia came close to widespread blackouts eight times – four times in New South Wales, three in Victoria and once in South Australia, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).
As extreme and catastrophic weather events become more frequent and severe, microgrids can provide a reliable power source during times of crisis and strengthen the resilience of Australia’s energy network.
Unlike regional-scale grid infrastructure, microgrids also present a more reliable, secure and cost-effective energy supply for regional and remote communities in Australia. People in remote areas frequently have poor access to basic services and face high costs of living. Microgrids can empower isolated communities to embrace innovative technology like solar and reduce their reliance on costly traditional energy sources.
State and Federal Government is beginning to take note. In March, the Clean Energy Council started lobbying the government to accelerate and increase funding for the installation of microgrids, stand-alone power systems and community batteries.
The future of Australia’s energy supply is renewable – and microgrids may provide the solution to an outdated and fossil fuels reliant electricity grid.
Instyle Solar is one of Australia’s largest residential and commercial solar companies, completing over 18,000 solar installations across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.