Energy shift brings new options for developments


21 December 2018

Cardno: With consumers continuing to pay record levels for electricity generation and grid connection, businesses, communities and local governments are increasingly seeking renewable and hybrid off-grid solutions to deliver their power needs more cost efficiently.

Energy Services Director, Harry Fernandez, believes that businesses seeking off-grid options are on the cusp of some significant changes that will allow them to deliver energy efficient solutions while maintaining capacity for additional generation and storage as the community’s needs grow.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen significant growth in the number of requests to design energy solutions that minimise power consumption, generate and store sufficient energy, and avoid costly grid augmentation costs,” he said.

“While the technology has been in place for some time, the costs are finally starting to come down and more and more successful models are being produced for a range of energy needs.

“The market is starting to change rapidly and this is opening up opportunities for cleaner generation and less costly storage that allow businesses to consider new options to power their projects,” he said.

Requests for hybrid energy solutions began to trend up in 2016, when the Energy Services team were commissioned to deliver a power operations study that proposed economically viable and sustainable options for an eco-resort island project with a small development footprint.

“When you’re setting out to develop an island eco resort, its viability is severely affected by the costs of expensive submarine cables for power and you have to find alternative sources of energy from renewables and blend these with conventional fuel sources,” said Harry.

“The inclusion of solar PV was an obvious choice, but the small development footprint of the resort limited solar generation options.

“The solution came from finding enough yieldable space to produce about 4.5MWp from both ground and roof mounted solar arrays on the resort’s facilities, with an additional 3 MWh battery storage and a small amount of diesel to fill in the gaps.

“More recently we’ve set a precedent to harness solar power, battery storage and water treatment technologies to deliver a water chlorination facility that is powered entirely off grid as part of the Logan Water Infrastructure Alliance in South East Queensland.

“We investigated a number of technological options and settled on generation from 323 panels on the roof of the reservoir going to a 95kWh capacity Tesla battery power pack to deliver a self-contained ‘micro power grid’.

“The solution delivered a facility which is entirely off-grid, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, capital and operating costs, and is very low maintenance,” he said.

A new trend is to develop off-grid energy solutions for housing developments and masterplanned communities and its here where magic of renewable energy, storage solutions and efficient building designs come together.

“Integrating energy systems at a larger level through things like geo-exchange solutions, centralised district cooling systems, distributed and centralised generators, and storage batteries – and combining them with passive design methods that create buildings which heat and cool more efficiently help to significantly reduce the power demand and electricity needs of a whole city.

“Mixed design solutions allow whole communities or cities to generate as much energy as possible from renewable sources for residential and commercial premises and keep essential systems operational at all times.

"Of course, you will always need a level of back-up systems since some renewable sources can be intermittent but the challenge is to carefully design a system that can generate additional power and have sufficient storage and alternative sources to suit the particular project constraint.”

Harry believes that the future for the renewable energy market is looking bright and that rapidly evolving battery storage technology will help to solve the Achilles heel of the renewables industry and open up a range of affordable options for many businesses and projects.

“Standalone and micro-grid renewable energy solutions are challenging but offer exciting opportunities for development and as the costs of battery storage decreases and technology improves,” he said.

“We’re continually keeping abreast of new technology developments, improving our knowledge and upscaling project delivery so that we can provide competitive, affordable energy consultancy solutions to businesses, developers and community groups.

“After more than 30 years in the industry, designing efficient systems still energise me.”

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