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Design and construction of the $6 million Microgrid and Isolated Systems Test facility in Cairns has now officially commenced.

The research and development hub will be undertaken by Cairns-based Osborne Construction Solutions and Babinda Electrics, and will support up to 70 jobs. 

Member for Cairns Michael Healy said the facility, ­to be built at Ergon’s existing Spence Street site, is a massive coup for the region and puts Cairns at the forefront of energy innovation in Queensland.

“This is the first large-scale facility of its kind in Queensland and will feature some of the most cutting-edge technology in the energy sector,” Mr Healy said.

“This will pave the way for new electricity solutions that can be used across Queensland.

“It will also support many new jobs for the region, which will have a flow on effect for local businesses, schools and the economy.

“This is a win-win for Cairns and Energy Queensland.”

Queensland Energy Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, said the facility will enable rigorous testing of new technologies to ensure they can be seamlessly integrated into the electricity network or used as an off-grid alternative.

“The brains of the new facility is a super computer, or real-time digital simulator, which can simulate and model equipment and capture data in very high detail,” Dr Lynham said.

“A wide range of energy solutions will be able to be tested before they are deployed, enabling renewable energy and energy storage to form a greater part of microgrids and isolated systems for remote communities.  

“We want to tap into technology that helps deliver affordable, reliable, sustainable and safe energy solutions to communities across Queensland, but we have to ensure it is the right fit first.”  

The facility will incorporate and build on the success of Energy Queensland’s Innovation Lab, where testing of solar PV systems and battery energy storage has already assisted the development of national safety standards and an intelligent grid. 

Principal Engineer Technology Innovation at Energy Queensland, Alan Louis, said the facility will help new technologies connect to the National Electricity Market grid.

“This helps us enable new technologies to connect to the grid so that more Queenslanders can harness the power of solar without impacting the security of the network or quality of supply,” he said.

“The Sunshine State now boasts one of the highest distributed solar PV penetration rates in the world and we’re proud to be playing a significant role in the transition to renewables.”

Energy Queensland employees from across the state will work with the Cairns-based facility to investigate more efficient options to supply remote communities and customers on the fringes of the grid, where it makes sense for economic and environmental reasons.

“By enabling the integration of high levels of centralised and distributed renewables and energy storage, we can reduce costly diesel consumption in isolated communities,” Mr Louis said.

“With a facility of this calibre, we can prepare customers, communities and our workforce for the future, support regional development and build on our relationships with local academic institutions, like James Cook University and Central Queensland University.”

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