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Monash University builds campus-wide electricity microgrid

Monash University is building a sustainable electricity microgrid at its Clayton campus, which is claimed will result in millions of dollars saved in energy costs.

The microgrid infrastructure already incorporates one megawatt of roof-top solar generation capacity and will be extended by another three megawatts by the end of 2018 while one megawatt hour of storage capacity will also be added.

By 2020, the university says it will be generating seven gigawatt hours of electricity, sufficient to power 1,000 homes for a year.

The project is part of the University's goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2030. The Net Zero project goes beyond simply being carbon neutral and will see the institution completely eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels.

The microgrid infrastructure will be used as a demonstration of how energy drawn from a range of sources can be intelligently managed and efficiently utilised.

"The ability to have real-time monitoring and management is a critical part of Monash University’s vision that the Microgrid will become a centrepiece for research and industry engagement, focused on meeting the new needs of the energy sector," says Monash University Net Zero Program director, Tony Fullelove.

"By managing the Clayton campus energy demands and providing ancillary services to the Victorian power grid, the Monash microgrid will provide a real-world example of how Victoria can keep its energy system affordable and resilient, particularly during peak periods and extreme weather events, while rapidly transitioning the state to a low carbon economy."

Indra Energy Solutions manager, Giovanni Polizzi, says effective monitoring and management of energy systems and loads at a network and customer premise level is a key challenge for the Australian electricity sector.

"By operating in a real-world environment, the microgrid will help to provide a clearer understanding of how the energy industry can manage networks with consumer-connected generation, storage and smart technologies," he said.

To achieve its net zero target, the University has committed to spend $135 million on energy transformation over the next 13 years. This will cover energy efficiency measures such as LED lighting, campus electrification, on-site renewable energy and purchase agreements for off-site renewable energy.

The resulting energy savings will result in significant cost savings which are estimated to be worth $15 million a year by 2028.

"The microgrid is essential to reaching this goal as it helps the University to accurately control when and how energy is used across the campus,” says Polizzi.

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