SwitchDin BCG microgrid project gets underway
The Victorian government-backed Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) microgrid project has achieved its first construction milestone, with installation of the 51 kilowatt (kW) solar PV system completed this week by microgrid developer Walnut Energy and local installer Wade’s.
The remainder of the BCG laboratory microgrid - including nearly 140 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of battery storage by Sungrow Samsung SDI and energy management system by SwitchDin - is slated to be operational by early next year.
The SwitchDin energy management solution is well suited to microgrids and virtual power plants. In the case of the BCG laboratory microgrid, where there is a mix of vendor components, SwitchDin simplifies an otherwise complex system design and make it easy to operate.
Changing trends in farming strengthen case for renewables
BCG have used the occasion to highlight the benefits of and business case for the use of renewable energy & battery storage in rural industry.
BCG CEO Chris Sounness noted that, traditionally, the transition of a family agribusiness from one generation to another meant an investment in more land; these days, however, a growing proportion are investing in livestock systems (including poultry sheds) instead.
“$2 to $3 million investment in land versus an investment in intensive chickens has a comparable return, but the added benefit of diversification, an income stream less affected by climate variability and increased members in the local community are positive,” Mr Sounness said.
“But, one of the large financial outlays with intensive poultry sheds is the electrical bill associated with keeping the temperature constant.”
Energy bills associated with poultry farming can easily reach $50,000 to $100,000 per annum, due primarily to the need for constant climate control, which is necessary for the wellbeing of the livestock. On-site solar helps to defray these costs significantly, while battery storage provides supply security in the event of grid outages.
Further potential revenue streams for rural businesses
Battery storage in a smart software-enabled, embedded microgrid like BCG’s may also enable opportunities for additional revenue streams for agribusiness. Although the BCG project will not be capable of energy trading, Mr Sounness is optimistic that energy market participation models will emerge in the future.
Just like grain, the price of energy on the wholesale market fluctuates. With the use of batteries and software, electricity can be sold back into the grid when the price is high.
Innovative projects in the microgrid space supports the sustainability of farming communities to mitigate climate change risks by building grower capability and capacity to implement renewable energy technology in their business.
The system that is being installed on the office and laboratory will enable BCG to display, test and try the microgrid technology and demonstrate the learnings to local growers throughout the Wimmera and Mallee.
BCG can be reached for further comment on the project via 03 5492 2787.
SWITCHDIN IS ENABLING THE DISTRIBUTED ENERGY FUTURE
In addition to microgrids, SwitchDin also supports virtual power plants for energy market participation and demand response.
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