Smart energy grid research has commenced across four farming regions in Queensland and New South Wales to uncover practical, replicable, and high impact microgrid scenarios for Australian agriculture.
Led by the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF), Cotton Australia, ReAqua, and Constructive Energy, the project has installed more than 50 smart energy meters to measure and model how microgrids can offer benefits to agricultural electricity consumers and energy networks.
QFF CEO Dr Georgina Davis said the project provided the opportunity to test new models for utilising grid infrastructure which could assist farmers to reduce high electricity costs and improve competitiveness.
“The project will utilise smart meters to create four virtual microgrids and test their suitability in different circumstances, including at a winery near Pokolbin, a cotton farm near St George, a mixed commodity farm near Wee Waa, and seven cane farms and a water service provider near Mackay,” Dr Davis said.
“The real-time energy data feeds into a custom dashboard for participants and project stakeholders, providing energy insights by applying the data to a proprietary modelling tool. The model will identify whether a microgrid is the best solution for each farming archetype and, if so, what that microgrid should look like.”
“Impacted by changing and uncertain electricity tariff prices, and charges and restrictions on solar exports, farmers are considering alternative energy assets to maximise productivity and existing infrastructure investments. This study hopes to offer data driven solutions for farmers while recommending improved service opportunities for energy network service providers.”
Project participant and farmer Sarah Ciesiolka said there were great opportunities that would spring from this project.
“Our farm enterprise currently has very high energy bills and a complex network of electricity infrastructure,” Ms Ciesiolka said.
“The project will help us determine how to reduce that complexity, decrease our energy costs and work out what renewable generation might fit best within our farming operations. From there we can start considering the options for how best to use that excess energy, which is a fantastic position to be in.”
Microgrids have the potential to unlock greater affordability, productivity, improved utilisation of infrastructure, and local resilience for the agriculture sector and regional communities. Operating as user-centred infrastructure, microgrids encourage the flexibility of grid networks as Australia looks to modernise energy services.
With both Ergon and Essential Energy involved, this project acknowledges the potential and complementary value of interconnecting microgrids to existing distribution networks.
For more information about the Flow on Benefits for Microgrids in Agriculture project, visit: www.qff.org.au/projects/microgrids/.
This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund.