A $30 million energy partnership has been established to create an industrial-scale smart microgrid energy system, and integrated research and education platform.

The Waurn Ponds Smart Energy Partnership between Deakin University and AusNet Services, through its Mondo Power advanced energy solutions group, will build a 7.25 megawatt (MW) smart microgrid, including a solar generation farm, a one megawatt battery storage capacity, and an integrated new research and visualisation centre at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus.

Professor den Hollander of Deakin University said there was a growing global need for research in innovative renewable energy systems, and the new partnership would help to build Deakin’s and AusNet Services’ capacities as leaders in the development of innovative energy systems.

“As we have seen in Australia and overseas, the demands on energy networks are changing rapidly as technology and knowledge tries to keep up with the growing shift by industry, consumers and governments towards sustainable energy generation and distributed energy systems,” Professor den Hollander said.

“This partnership gives Deakin an unparalleled opportunity to help drive the renewable energy revolution by providing unique opportunities for researchers to develop and test solutions at an industrial scale and train the next generation of energy professionals.”

AusNet Services’ Managing Director, Nino Ficca, said that this partnership reflects the significant shift in how energy is being generated, delivered and used.

“Our aim is to explore what the future energy possibilities might be and use the research outcomes to empower communities and customers,” Mr Ficca said.

Speaking about future energy possibilities of the microgrid project, Mr Ficca said, “The microgrid…could also be expanded to include research of other technologies such as hydrogen storage that could lead to hydrogen and electric vehicle integration. The opportunities that can be created leveraging this initiative are limitless.”

Underpinning the Waurn Ponds Smart Energy partnership will be a 14.5 hectare solar energy farm backed by rooftop solar panels and one megawatt battery storage, which is expected to begin powering the campus from mid-2019.

“While there are a great number of benefits that cover many areas such as research applications, the university will also be able to reduce carbon emissions by 12,000 tonnes per year and generate half of the Waurn Ponds campus’ energy needs on site, supporting Deakin to achieve our sustainability goals,” Professor den Hollander said.

Mr Ficca and Professor den Hollander noted the Waurn Ponds Smart Energy Partnership created the foundation to attract additional partners as it expanded its research capabilities and detailed benefits for the broader community.

“Deakin is passionate about supporting the communities we serve, working collaboratively with industry and relevant businesses as well as governments to drive forward solutions to the challenges we are all facing, and together with AusNet Services, we’re looking forward to welcoming additional partners to increase our reach and impact through this innovative project,” Professor den Hollander said. 

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