Ecovillage Power and Smart Grid

admin Sustainability

Narara Ecovillage aims to be self-sufficient for energy needs. The Ecovillage will continue to be connected to the wider energy grid, providing the opportunity to earn revenue by exporting unused surplus energy from PV panels. Another ongoing project is considering how the Ecovillage can continue to energise the Smart Grid during power outages in the wider energy grid. This will ensure that community residents are never without power in their homes.

The Narara Ecovillage Smart Grid was developed with the expert advice and support of Beast Solutions, CSIRO, SwitchDin and AusGRID following a 2014 feasibility study enabled by a grant of $70,000 from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The self-contained, computerised local electricity grid is designed to manage the consumption and storage of energy for 150 homes as well as communal and commercial facilities. Learnings from monitoring its application in the first 60 homes will be made publicly available through ARENA. 

The Smart Grid is designed to: 

·  Monitor loads and determine usage patterns 

·  Store excess power in batteries for use when needed 

·  Meet community demands using solar photovoltaic cells and battery systems 

·  Draw from the grid when required but also supply excess power to the local network 

·  Predict and operate around changeable weather conditions including cloudy days 

·  Share power around the village using ‘smart’ controls and deliver low-cost energy to residents 

·  Produce operational net zero carbon emissions in line with NEV’s high building standards, which require individual houses to produce enough energy for their own use annually  

The Smart Grid is an essential element in achieving the goal of power self-sufficiency. It has long been recognised that simply producing sufficient electricity from PV panels is not enough. Energy demands rarely match energy supply – power generation is highest during the day but peak demands for energy are generally early in the morning, late afternoon and evening. The planned battery system within the Ecovillage Smart grid will store power during the day in order to meet the needs of residents at peak times.

Narara Ecovillage (NEV) Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of Narara Eco-village Co-operative Ltd. NEV Power operates a smart grid system that utilises groundbreaking technology to reduce infrastructure costs, balance and optimise the use of solar PV and battery storage, and produce a net carbon-neutral village.

The long term vision for Narara Ecovillage will see the development of over 120 lots developed in three stages. NEV Power is expected to grow to incorporate 1,052 kW of solar PV generation and 825 kWh of batteries. The first stage of construction is now underway and comprises 42 detached dwellings and 18 cluster houses. The infrastructure for stage 1 has been designed to incorporate flexibility for future stages and technology change. Stage 1 will incorporate 526 kW of solar PV generation, 460 kWh of batteries, smart solutions for system control, power quality control, systems for bidirectional energy flow, and grid interaction controls.

NEV Power is a private embedded network with R2 exemption under the National Energy Law (NEL) as administered by AER.