Deakin University breaks ground on Geelong solar-powered microgrid project

Deakin University's Geelong installs industrial-scale solar systemDeakin University breaks ground on 7.25MW microgrid

Deakin University has broken ground on a $30 million solar-powered microgrid at its Waurn Ponds Campus in Geelong, Victoria.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander last week joined officials from project partner AusNet Services to turn the ceremonial first sod on the project.

As we reported in 2017, the 7.25 MW microgrid will include a solar farm, plus rooftop solar power systems on campus buildings. It will also feature a one megawatt central battery, plus smaller batteries for storing renewable energy across the campus.

Deakin University powers up solar-powered microgrid

Deakin University powers up solar-powered microgrid at its Waurn Ponds campus in Geelong. Image: Deakin University

Mondo Power, AusNet’s commercial development arm, is beginning construction of a 14.5 hectare solar energy farm to power the microgrid.

Den Hollander said the project would give researchers the chance to test renewable energy solutions at an industrial scale. It would also provide a test bed for the next generation of energy professionals.

Microgrid helps drive Deakin Uni’s sustainability goals

In addition to its potential as a research hub, the solar-powered microgrid will support Deakin’s climate targets. The university aims to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Once completed, the project will reduce carbon emissions by 12,000 tonnes per year and generate half the campus’s energy needs. Microgrids not only provide energy security, but can help decrease electricity network costs.

It’s expected the project will be up and powering the campus by the end of 2019.

In future, the solar-powered microgrid could also be expanded to include technologies like hydrogen storage and electric vehicle integration.

“The opportunities that can be created leveraging this initiative are limitless,” said AusNet managing director Nino Ficca in 2017.

Deakin adds to Victoria’s solar-powered microgrid boom

Victoria’s commitment to renewables has sparked a boom in microgrid projects.

Last year, the Andrews Government announced a $3 million program to support building microgrids in the Latrobe Valley.

The funding forms part of a $10 million Microgrid Demonstration Initiative. The MDI offers grants of between $100,000 and $5 million for the development of microgrid projects state-wide.

Deakin’s solar-powered microgrid project mirrors that of its Melbourne peer, Monash University.

Last year it announced plans for a microgrid incorporating solar power and storage at its Clayton Campus.

Like Deakin, Monash has a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, and secured $2.9 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to fund the microgrid project.