ICLSG partner, Ausgrid, has unveiled its first microgrid trial taking place at Merriwa town centre in the Upper Hunter Region, which will increase resilience in the electricity grid, reducing the community impacts of planned and unplanned power outages.

This innovative $3million trial announced by Ausgrid, will improve the resilience of the electricity network in Merriwa by efficiently maintaining supply to the town centre during periods of disruption to the main electricity grid. These periods of disruption could be a result from scheduled downtime due to grid maintenance, or unplanned connection loss because of extreme weather events like bush fires and flash floods. 

“This microgrid trial is all about supporting local communities and businesses during severe weather events,” said former Ausgrid Chief Executive Officer, Richard Gross. 

In an event where the connection to the main electricity grid is interrupted, the microgrids control system will disconnect customers from the main electricity grid and switch on the connection to the microgrid.Once the main electricity grid is up and running again, the microgrid’s control system will revert to the original state of operations. By maintaining electricity supply during main grid power outages, an ‘islanding’ mode is created. Whereby areas are temporarily self-sufficient despite the main electricity grid being offline, being supplied by micro-generation and micro-storage sources. 

‘Resilience as a Service’ is an area ICLSG is researching, understanding how different distribution network operators perceive its feasibility and value (monetary and non-monetary) to not only themselves, but also the communities they serve. 

The microgrid itself will be comprised of a collection of distributed smart energy assets in the Merriwa community, predominately made up of solar photovoltaic (ground-mounted and rooftop) for generation coupled with Lithium-ion battery storage solution. It is a big step towards phasing out the need for polluting backup generators during periods of disruption in rural communities, helping accelerate a transition to net zero. 

A unique feature of Ausgrid’s planned microgrid, is the development and inclusion of a ‘community hub’. Mr Gross explained the hub “is a place where the community can come together and access essential services during an emergency – things like device charging, refrigeration and food preparation.” 

The microgrid trial is expected to begin in 2024, as a part of the current consultation process with the Merriwa community there will be direct engagement, to ensure the design of the microgrid and community hub will meet current and future needs of the community.  Find out more here

At ICLSG, we are finding there are a variety of different approaches to community-led projects and how local plays a role in the future electricity grids. We will be publishing our Network Resilience report in early Summer 2023. This report will share insights on the important role that projects such as this provide in increasing network resilience within our local communities.