Bushfires, extreme weather events, peak holiday periods, as well as being at the end of the network has put pressure on the power supply of the popular holiday destination Bawley Point, increasing the frequency of power outages. In response, Endeavour Energy is looking to future-proof its electricity network by fast-tracking an $8 million initiative to build the first community microgrid on the New South Wales South Coast.
Volunteer firefighter, Hendrik Boone, knows all too well the impact of power outages on his local community. A reliable source of power is critical to Mr Boone’s role as the captain of the Bawley Point Rural Fire brigade.
Mr Boone was one of hundreds of heroic volunteers who saved the popular coastal town of Bawley Point on the New South Wales South Coast from the devastating Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020 which destroyed thousands of homes and nearly 5.5 million hectares across the state.
Because of the frequent power outages in the area, the fire station has installed back-up generators to ensure everything works when it’s needed.
“If we don’t have reliable electricity supply, then we can’t open up the doors of the fire shed and get to the fire trucks – it is that critical,” Mr Boone said.
Funded with the support of the New South Wales Government’s Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, along with innovation funding, Energy’s initiative will see the edge-of-grid coastal towns of Bawley Point and Kioloa, just south of Ulladulla, become the centre piece of the energy distributor’s first community microgrid, providing a reliable, renewable, and stand-alone power supply during network outages.
Announcing the initiative in early-2022, Endeavour Energy donated the first battery to be installed at the Bawley Point fire station, in a move Mr Boone believes will be a game-changer for his community.
“This is a great initiative which will enable emergency services, residents and local business operators in the area to have a reliable power supply,” Mr Boone said. “Our food in the fridge won’t spoil, we will still be able to turn lights on and have hot water when we need it.”
Endeavour Energy Chief Asset and Operating Officer, Scott Ryan, said the Bawley Point and Kioloa community microgrid would showcase modern grid technology.
“Microgrids are a key part of the resilience story for regional, rural and urban communities – it’s using future grid technology to answer tomorrow’s questions right now. There is no time to waste and it’s absolutely critical we implement renewable solutions now,” Mr Ryan said.
“The Bawley Point and Kioloa community microgrid is a key milestone in the revolution of the distribution of energy by addressing power reliability while accelerating the uptake of renewable energy.”
Mr Ryan said a key objective of the initiative was working with the local community to co-design the microgrid.
“Through a program of community workshops and meetings we are listening to the community and understanding their needs so we can build this together,” Mr Ryan said.
The community microgrid will be a local energy system that draws electricity from renewable sources such as solar panels and batteries. While it is connected to the main electricity grid, it will be able to operate independently during outages, providing a consistent power supply to residents.
The area of Bawley Point and Kioloa is currently serviced by two 11kV distribution feeders from the Ulladulla zone substation, around 38km away on the edge of Endeavour Energy’s operational footprint.
Over time, power reliability has been improved through enhancements to the existing electricity lines in addition to a 1MW diesel generator.
The proposed Bawley Point and Kioloa community microgrid, which is expected to be operational by mid-2023, will include decommissioning the diesel generator and replacing it with a 3MW grid battery connected to a network of household batteries and solar panels.
To help manage electricity through the microgrid, state-of-the-art software will forecast the renewable energy load and manage it across all the solar panels and batteries, in real time.
Households who participate in the program will be able to generate solar for their own immediate use, store it for later and share it back with the grid when the electricity network needs it.
According to Mr Ryan, the Bawley Point and Kioloa microgrid will help demonstrate the benefits of harnessing microgrid technology to other communities.
“The Bawley Point and Kioloa community microgrid is a great example of the distribution revolution taking place right now in the electricity landscape,” Mr Ryan said.
“This initiative empowers customers and communities to manage a reliable and renewable power flow when they need it. It’s a win for customers, the environment and the network.”
In creating a resilient energy community, Endeavour Energy is also working with the Shoalhaven City Council to convert more than 170 streetlights to smart LEDs that will deliver more efficient energy usage and allow the community to keep the lights on, even when disconnected from the main network.