A Mallacoota Micro-grid and Energy Security 


Since the majors storms, transmission tower collapses and state-wide power blackouts in South Australia our political leaders in their ignorance have been attacking renewable energy and are now talking about energy security. With the storms and damage such as they were it was inevitable that large sections of the state would be blacked out. The transmission line collapses meant power surges and cut-out switches designed to protect the system operated causing further surges and cut-outs until the electricity system in the whole state was down. With such a storm it meant large parts of the state would have been blacked out but not, with a properly designed system, the whole of it. Some energy security could have been provided with micro-grids.

A micro-grid essentially means a small section of the grid can be isolated to keep operating when there is a fault or disturbance elsewhere. At its very smallest it can operate as a single household. This house has to be correctly wired, have a battery system, and an inverter that can disconnect from the mains. These systems have been around for quite some time but have been very expensive. When the grid power fails the inverter automatically switches to the battery back-up and if combined with solar power and depending on the size of your batteries and panels could provide both energy security and independence for a number of days.

The next level of micro-grids are for smaller communities sometimes at the very end of the 240 volt transmission lines. In these communities power failures occur often and there are a number of places in East Gippsland where these could be readily employed. Residents of Mallacoota have been agitating for some years for the community to be part of a micro-grid to improve their energy security and reliability. Technically this could be done immediately using diesel generators. Such a ‘micro-grid’ operated in the Omeo district during the 2006/7 bushfires when power to the region was cut. Ideally of course the micro-grid should be mainly renewable energy and battery storage with a diesel generator back-up. 

Micro-grids combined with renewable energy (wind and solar) and storage (batteries, pumped hydro) can provide a large amount of energy security. At the same time they are assisting the move towards a climate friendly and sustainable society with energy security and independence. Unlike the offerings of the climate dinosaurs in Canberra which would have us continue burning and exporting coal and promoting gas (still a fossil fuel) as a bridging energy source. Micro-grids, renewable energy and batteries are part of a decentralised power system where you are no longer beholden to the price gouging of the power supply companies and the coal miners. That is why they, and their pawns in Canberra, fight these ideas and advances ‘tooth and nail’. Why not bring on the Mallacoota micro-grid now and refine and improve it as funds and technology allow?