Monash builds campus-wide microgrid


Monash University has partnered with IT consulting company Indra to establish a sustainable electricity microgrid at its Clayton campus.

The microgrid infrastructure already incorporates 1MW of rooftop solar generation capacity, which will be extended by another 3MW and 1MWh of storage capacity by the end of 2018.

By 2020, the university will be generating 7GWh of electricity – enough to power 1000 homes for a year.

The project is part of the university’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2030. The Net Zero project goes beyond simply being carbon neutral and will see the institution completely eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels.

The microgrid infrastructure will be used as a demonstration of how energy drawn from a range of sources can be intelligently managed and efficiently utilised.

Underpinning the microgrid is the InGRID.AGM software platform from Indra.

The platform will monitor and process power system operations across the grid through a combination of intelligent processing nodes at the edge of the network and a centralised analytics engine.

The nodes use powerful Intel processors over which Indra has developed its InGRID.AGM IoT solution for utilities.

Both elements are connected via Indra’s iSPEED low-latency bus.

A state-of-the-art technology, iSPEED enhances openness and interoperability by incorporating support for a wide range of industry-standard communication protocols.

“The ability to have real-time monitoring and management is a critical part of Monash University’s vision that the microgrid will become a centrepiece for research and industry engagement, focused on meeting the new needs of the energy sector,” Monash University Net Zero program director Tony Fullelove said.

“By managing the Clayton campus energy demands and providing ancillary services to the Victorian power grid, the Monash microgrid will provide a real-world example of how Victoria can keep its energy system affordable and resilient, particularly during peak periods and extreme weather events, while rapidly transitioning the state to a low carbon economy.”

Indra energy solutions manager Giovanni Polizzi said effective monitoring and management of energy systems and loads at a network and customer premise level is a key challenge for the Australian electricity sector.

The microgrid, supported by the Indra InGRID.AGM platform, will showcase how these challenges can be overcome.

“By operating in a real-world environment, the microgrid will help to provide a clearer understanding of how the energy industry can manage networks with consumer-connected generation, storage and smart technologies,” he said.

“This partnership brings together an acute understanding of the Australian energy market, a world-leading technology provider and cutting-edge implementation and research.”

Mr Fullelove said Indra was a natural choice for the microgrid project because of the company’s extensive experience in the design and management of complex power infrastructures.

“We recognised that Indra was the only technology provider that could deliver a platform able to provide real-time information and interoperability between different systems,” he said.

“We did not want to be locked into a proprietary system that would bind us to a single technology, and Indra provides us with that flexibility.”

The intelligent nodes are available from a number of Intel technology partners while the collaboration between Indra and Advantech has brought the UNO 2270 industrial IoT compact gateway model to Monash University.

To achieve its net zero target, the university has committed to spend $135 million on energy transformation in the next 13 years.

This will cover energy efficiency measures such as LED lighting, campus electrification, onsite renewable energy and purchase agreements for off-site renewable energy.

The resulting energy savings will result in significant cost savings, which are estimated to be worth $15 million a year by 2028.

“The microgrid is an essential to reaching this goal as it helps the university to accurately control when and how energy is used across the campus,” Mr Polizzi said.