The judges have spoken and the recipients of the federal government’s Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund Microgrids pageant have been chosen, with 17 projects in nearly every state and territory (sorry ACT, South Australia and Tasmania) receiving between $300,000 and more than $3 million each to get started.

Small and remote communities are the hardest done by in the electricity stakes, having to rely on expensive and polluting diesel generation or spindly edge-of-grid distribution networks.

Clean energy is the obvious solution in parts of the country that are almost out of reach of mainstream services, but storage and firming are essential requirements. It takes great brains and willpower to provide energy in the middle of nowhere, so grant funding support is highly valued.

Congratulations to all the winners, who are listed below in alphabetical order.

Alinga Energy Consulting

This West Australian company specializes in providing energy solutions for remote indigenous communities around the state. The $473,670 grant will go towards studies to work out strategies that best suit the energy use of communities in far-flung locations.

“Our feasibility assessments have an emphasis on sustainable solutions that can be adequately maintained to provide long term benefits, including affordable energy to some of our nation’s most vulnerable people to support better educational, health and economic outcomes,” Alinga stated in its application for funds.

Atyenhenge-Atherre Aboriginal Corporation

In partnership with Arup, the Atyenhenge-Atherre Aboriginal Corporation is determined to provide reliable energy to the 600 people who live in Santa Teresa, about 87km south-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The $303,371 grant will help the team design a microgrid reliable enough to one day take the residents off supply delivered by powerlines that have failed them too many times over the years.

C.L.E.A.N. (Cowra) Incorporated

The 1MW Cowra Solar and Battery Microgrid will bring together the energy needs of several large industrial regional businesses in a single aggregated embedded network and see the development of energy generation and dispatchable capacity. A grant of $1,031,556 will fund a feasibility study as preparation for investment.

Further down the track it’s hoped the microgrid can be expanded to include biogas-powered electricity generation, thermal networks to local heat customers and include more customers in the local community.

Centre for New Energy Technologies

Two towns in Victoria stand to gain greater energy security if the Charlton Zone Substation Microgrid Feasibility and Demonstration Project succeeds in designing an energy solution that sees them islanded within the grid. The $1,404,750 grant will fund research into network impact, the utility of high DER concentration, a suitable microgrid assessment tool and how the project might inform energy regulations and policy.

Desert Knowledge Australia

The largest grant, $3,197,507, goes towards solving grid stability issues that are limiting additional renewable energy to the Alice Springs power system, with other systems in the Northern Territory likely to follow. The project includes development of an optimisation tool to best size batteries, which are expected to be part of the solution. Desert Knowledge Australia then aims to identify ways to reach a renewable energy target of 50% by 2030.

Ener-G Management Group

The Yarrabah Microgrid project, awarded $1,976,451, aims to make the remote Queensland community a case study for the rollout of microgrids elsewhere in the state. A preparatory study will look at demand and load profiles, utilisation of PV, wind, waste-to-energy and biogas, and how storage and EVs can be used to augment the microgrid.

Ergon Energy

The Queensland energy company has been granted $408,954 to work out how to make the most of solar and wean the residents of Mapoon, Burketown, Birdsville and Windorah off diesel for “significant periods of the day”. The long-term hope is for greater system resilience and lower bills.

Impact Investment Partners

The Mutitjulu and Martu Community Microgrid Project has been awarded $519,954 to fund a study to assess the viability of microgrids for communities near Uluru, in the Northern Territory, and the Pilbara, Western Australia, where electricity is supplied by diesel generation sets. An upgrade to energy reliability will improve the performance of electrical equipment and the delivery of essential services such as sewerage and water supply.

Innovating Energy

Farms are energy-hungry and often far from reliable generation, which is why this NSW project has been awarded $3 million to test the feasibility of the InnovE PowerSmart farm electricity generation and technology solutions in the dairy industry. With a bio-gas anaerobic digester power generator at its core, the system can generate and store electricity in remote areas and create a “hub and spoke” model within a dairy network to build economies of scale.

Island Power Co

The Indian Ocean Territories Renewable Energy Microgrid feasibility study aims to solve some of the energy woes suffered by residents of The Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island, off the coast of Western Australia, which have some of the highest costs of power generation in Australia. A transition to renewable energy microgrids in the islands could provide more reliable, secure and affordable power for strategic government assets and local communities. The $315,504 in grant funding will help.

Power and Water Corporation

The Northern Territory’s Power and Water Corporation has a good record for building PV solutions to solve energy issues in remote places and will use the $1,210,000 awarded it to pursue its NT Microgrid Futures Project, or SETuP 2.0. Building on lessons from the first SETuP program, version 2.0 will map a pathway to further reduce diesel fuel and operational costs in more than 60 isolated grids within the energy company’s enormous jurisdiction. 

Queensland Farmers’ Federation

The project has been awarded $654,807 to establish and analyse four demonstration virtual microgrids in NSW and Queensland, including community consultation and workshops, data collection and modelling to understand costs and benefits to consumers and networks.

Regional Power Corporation

Energy reliability and safety are major concerns for remote communities in Western Australia but with its Energy for All project Horizon Power will produce a plan for 13 Aboriginal communities to upgrade to utility-standard electricity services. The $1,402,128 in grant funding will get the ball rolling.

Regional Power Corporation

Beautiful Exmouth, halfway up Western Australia’s endless coastline, is pitching to go 100% renewables and $600,000 in funding will be used to foster community support, test system design, audit operating assets and develop a business model to complete its 100% Renewable Energy Town Transition.

Totally Renewable Yackandandah

The town in Victoria is already sourcing enough clean energy to meet 55% of requirements some days and its new project, awarded $346,644, will analyse how to build in the requisite storage capacity to manage surplus solar to use in the evening. A combination of 1-2MW battery storage and 4-6MW pumped hydro energy storage will be modelled.

Wattwatchers

Wattwatchers’ MyTown Microgrid project is testing microgrid feasibility using IoT technology combined with community engagement and business model co-design in the Latrobe Valley town of Heyfield. The team will use $1,787,300 in funding to explore using multiple data source platforms to calculate demand, flexibility and supply, and develop tools to make it easier for regional communities to deploy cost-effective microgrids for optimal outcomes.

Yurika

Having assembled a portfolio of sites including airports, ports, industrial estates, state development areas and agricultural businesses in regional locations, Yurika will evaluate the commercial and technical feasibility of microgrids across a spectrum of potential use cases. The Queensland-based energy company has been awarded $968,447 to do so.