Deakin University launches $23 million microgrid at Geelong Waurn Ponds 04 May 2021

Alexandra Henkel, Tony Arnel, Luke Menzel and Adrian Panow tour the Deakin University microgrid at the Warun Ponds campus in advance of Earth Day opening, 20 April 2021.

By Katy Daily

Last month Energy Efficiency Council University Partner Deakin University celebrated the official opening of their $23 million Deakin Renewable Energy Microgrid at the Geelong Waurn Ponds campus. 

Designed and built in partnership with AusNet Services and Mondo Power, the Microgrid is comprised of a 7mW solar energy farm and 2mWh central battery storage system on 14.5 hectares, a 0.25mW distributed rooftop solar generation and storage system, and a Research, Teaching and Visualisation Centre located in the Centre for Advanced Design Engineering Training (CADET) building.

Ahead of the launch, Energy Efficiency Council President and Industry Professor at Deakin University Professor Tony Arnel toured the project with Council CEO Luke Menzel, along with Dr. Adrian Panow, Director of Deakin Energy and Alexandra Henkel, Program Manager at Deakin Energy.

“A massive solar installation at 7mW, this is the largest behind-the-meter project in the southern hemisphere. Aided by a 2mW battery, it will supply more than half of the energy requirements for the campus and is a remarkable applied research opportunity for our students,” remarked Tony.

The opening of the Microgrid boosts Deakin’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025. It also provides a unique opportunity to make a positive contribution in the collective fight against climate change while also conducting high-value research to benefit Australian communities.

Adrian is excited about the opportunity for the university to become a power station operator – and to learn about all the issues involved with that, from electrical standards to cyber security, and fairness and equity to the critical mass of virtual power plants.

"Ultimately, the Microgrid will supply more than half of the campus' energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12,000 tonnes each year," notes Adrian. "We want to be a working example – a 'living lab' – of how a large organisation can lead through its actions and fundamentally change its ways of doing. This includes the complete, systemic integration of sustainability across all our activities."

"The scale of the Microgrid project is important in two ways: achieving our carbon neutral objectives and providing a platform for industry-relevant research. The research focus incorporated into the design of the infrastructure builds on consultation with universities around the world, including Princeton and the University of California at San Diego.”

The Deakin Energy platform draws on internationally recognised capabilities and facilities for sustainable energy development across Deakin, including the Institute for Frontier Materials, BatTRI-Hub, the Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI), and the Faculty of Business and Law.

EEC CEO Luke Menzel said the project is impressive, as are Deakin’s plans to manage onsite loads to match supply. “Deakin is on track for an integrated energy management solution at Waurn Ponds that leverages solar, batteries, energy efficiency and smart load management to deliver an optimal solution for the campus, for the grid and for the environment. It’s impressive stuff.”

Deakin University recently brought forward its carbon-neutral target by five years, aiming for 2025. The university now wants to be carbon negative, that is, to abate more carbon than it generates, by 2030.

Its microgrid is just part of that solution – but one which will have implications beyond the university’s campus.

This article was originally published in the May edition of Efficiency Insight.