A mini-grid is a system where a relatively small number of networked dwellings co-operate in the generation of, and share the cost of generating, storing in a sophisticated battery and supplying to themselves electrical energy. This electrical energy is created by the use of solar panels to cover their daily energy needs without having to use the main grid. Recently we were advising a client wanting to get a mini grid up and running in the suburbs of Melbourne. This led us to try to find out what was going on in this area in other states and territories. This article sets out information about mini-grids in Australia.

NSW

Recent years have seen the NSW off-grid, self-reliant community grow at an increasing rate. Those in the battery and energy industries are increasingly looking towards mini-grids and solar energy systems when developing properties. Below are some examples of the ways mini-grids are already being used:

The Goolawah Co-operative is a land sharing venture in NSW. Power is sourced from PV solar panels. It works as a sub-development type scheme where 1600 acres of land was bought between 78 people, and 200 acres of it was divided into 1.2-acre housing sites, community areas, etc. Financially, it cost $13,500 for each person. It is described as a ‘horizontal strata title’ where each person owns all of the land, not only a 1.2-acre block, and all members need to be asked if one person wants to build a structure/make changes to the rest of the property.

The township of Tyalgum (population: 300) is also planning to be the first town in Australia to go off-grid, using a micro-grid to do so. The company Australian Radio Towers has been given funding by the NSW government of $15,000 to develop this project.
‘NSW allocates funds for community renewable energy projects’.

Alternatively, Tesla’s Powerwall is also starting to be introduced in NSW. Powerwall is a home battery bank that is hooked up to rooftop solar panels and is used on a home-by-home basis. The first one was installed in NSW in January 2016.

Siemens Australia is also currently drawing up plans for a 50MW micro-grid in Australia that would ultimately include up to 10,000 homes.

ACT

ActewAGL is currently trialling the installation of solar panel and solar battery packages across the ACT, with the first installation made in December 2015. The project is a system based on solar power with a battery storage grid, where a battery storage system is stored on the outside of each home. The batteries come with a seven-year warranty and ten-year performance guarantee. The first few systems to be installed in the ACT cost $15,000 each, though they are planning cheaper packages at $12,000.

SA

Similar developments are also being seen in SA with American company Enphase Energy partnering with SA Power Networks to provide a new battery storage system to trial, also on a house-by-house basis.

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If you need any assistance in drafting a contract or setting up an arrangement for a mini-grid, get in touch with LegalVision. Call us on 1300 544 755.

Catherine Logan

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