Microgrids Needed for High-Risk Bushfire Towns

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Scenes of 30 metre high firewalls racing through the Australian bush, overwhelming exhausted fire fighters, and destroying home after home lit up the TV sets of the world only 18 months ago. It was a horrific time, hell on earth, possibly a sign of worse things to come. During the fight and in the aftermath, as people tried to rebuild, they were hampered by lack of power. Now the Victorian government is working towards making these vulnerable towns more self-reliant by installing microgrids.

The folly of centralized power, and exposed poles and wires, is obvious in hindsight. The poles burned, the wires melted, and everyone further down the line lost power. Although it seemed a good idea at the time, it is not a good idea in these times. Three East Gippsland towns — Mallacoota, Omeo, and Corryong — were disconnected from the state’s grid for more than a month following the fires.

“We’re building energy resilience and safety as we face the impact of climate change and see hotter summers with longer bushfire seasons,” State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.

“Stand-alone or grid connected, islandable microgrids incorporating a range of technologies like solar PV, battery storage systems and smart energy management devices are increasingly being used to boost energy resilience in exposed and remote parts of Australia’s grids.”

Western Australia is one of the leaders in this field. Not so much because of bushfires, but because of isolation and the high cost of pole and wire maintenance. Trucking in diesel isn’t a cost-effective solution either. Hybrid systems of solar, wind, battery and a diesel generator are proving popular. 

Losing dependable power during and after a crisis can increase the trauma of the crisis itself and prevent people from being able to rebuild and recover. Summer is approaching, temperatures are rising. So far, we are getting a little rain, but the specter of another horrific fire season is never far away. 

Source: one step off the grid

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

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