Micro-grids to supply reliable, affordable power to social housing

A not-for-profit organisation armed with a state government grant has established Tasmania’s first micro-grid to provide public housing units with reliable power.

Tasman Peninsula Power (TPP) have established the micro-grid for five council-operated units at Nubeena in southern Tasmania. The Nubeena region was devastated by bushfires in 2013, and has experienced regular blackouts ever since due to ageing network infrastructure, putting pressure on residents who are already battling financially.

TPP received government funding to install $150,000 worth of solar panels and battery storage across the six residential aged-care units, ensuring they would not only receive affordable energy, but reliable electricity when the network fails them.

TPP chairman Paul Sutton said he was inspired to create the program after long periods of unreliable electricity supply in the region.

“We suffer a lot of outages,” he said. “In the last twelve months we’ve had fifteen outages – some outages being in excess of twenty-four hours and in extreme cases up to sixty hours for a number of customers.”

Tasman Council general manager Kim Hossack said that had been an ongoing issue in the region.

“For many, many years the peninsula and the whole Tasman region have always had multiple outages on a regular basis,” she said.

“I think it’s all come about from, at some stage, lack of maintenance of the lines.”

Since the micro-grid was installed, the residents have managed to keep the lights and power on during two major outages that lasted over seven hours each.

Plans to roll out more micro-grids across Tasmania

With the success of this micro-grid program, Mr Sutton said there were plans to expand the scheme to other parts of the region – and eventually even the entire state.

“We’d like to do this on many buildings around the peninsula as we can, or even within the state,” he said. “To really gauge the success of the project we will need to get through winter, but so far it has all been positive.”

The units will be monitored through winter when electricity usage tends to increase and blackouts become more regular. If the micro-grid stands up to the colder months, council said it was open to the idea of expanding the project.

Renewable energy for social housing with solar panels also being trialled

South Australia has a scheme to roll out solar systems and batteries to people living in social housing, but it is also trialling a unique system that doesn’t involve panels at all.

The South Australian government is rolling out solar batteries to properties where panels are not viable to create virtual power plants. It gives residents access to renewable energy, courtesy of a partnership with Tesla.

It has a dual purpose, also managing the over-supply of solar exports in the state. These exports can be funnelled towards virtual power plants and stored for use by those most in need. The initial trial includes twenty homes with more to be rolled out if it is successful.

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