Griffith University’s Peak Demand Energy Management Facility, or MicroGrid, was officially opened at the Nathan campus today (December 17).
The MicroGrid is part of a Queensland Government-funded project to develop world-leading technology for the improvement of energy capture, storage and delivery. Guests at today’s opening ceremony included Queensland’s Chief Scientist, Dr Geoff Garrett AO, Pro Vice Chancellor (Griffith Sciences) Professor Debra Henly, Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Ned Pankhurst and government and industry representatives.
In 2012, Griffith was awarded $1 million for its part in a total $5.7 million Smart Future Partnership Project to investigate how future electrical grid systems could be designed to minimise capital expenditure and energy losses.
Since then, energy companies Energex, Ergon Energy and Elevare Energy have been pursuing areas of investigation including the benefits of energy storage in an urban electricity grid — conducted in the Newmarket area of Brisbane — and the benefits of energy storage in a residential premise with rooftop solar panels.
Griffith’s contribution, led by Professor Junwei Lu from the School of Engineering, has been to investigate the benefits of energy storage in a commercial building, hence the installation of a MicroGrid testing facility on the roof of Technology Building N44 at Nathan.
Professor Lu says demands on electricity grids are changing rapidly in the modern world as consumers expect ever better power reliability. He adds this will require different grid designs to those that are currently installed to draw more power than ever during peak times and to supply energy to the main grid when and how it becomes available.
“MicroGrid technology’s combination of power electronics with solar photo-voltaic cells and energy storage is game-changing,” he says. “By allowing traditional power to connect with new and renewable energies, I believe MicroGrids are the building blocks for the smart power grids of the future.”
PhD researcher Mr Domagoj Leskarac has been involved in the design, installation and implementation of the Nathan MicroGrid.
“This is the big picture, new age technologies with advantages across many areas — technological, social, economical and environmental,” says Mr Leskarac.
“For example, excessive solar energy generation throughout the day can be stored and then better utilised when demand on the grid becomes more pressing. The trials at Griffith University N44 will test this idea with new and efficient component level technologies and system level topologies.
“It gets rid of that ‘too many plugs in the power-point’ scenario by enabling improved local power delivery, use, efficiency and quality. This is complementing the main grid, not compromising it.”
Professor Lu says the MicroGrid project will provide vital data and analysis to inform electricity policy changes and future grid structure decisions in Queensland.