About Microgrids

Definition of a Microgrid

A Microgrid is a system that efficiently controls and integrates the electricity supply and demand on behalf of locally interconnected users, either connected to the grid or as a stand alone system.

A Microgrid connects homes and / or businesses with the objective of efficiently integrating and controlling distributed energy resources (DER) within the system and with the wider energy ecosystem, realising greater value for users.

Microgrids are increasingly popular as energy users seek to take control of energy affordability, reliability and sustainability. They can be deployed for individual businesses, across precincts such as universities, business parks, airports and shopping centres, or in community settings, and can be connected to the grid or provide remote power.

Emerging technology combined with added control enables users to maximise the return from existing contracts (e.g. peak demand tariffs), new contracts (e.g. demand response, FCAS) and operation constraints (e.g. export limitations).

There are many different versions of a Microgrid, which are influenced by the context of the user drivers, DER available or sustainability objectives and the location in which they are deployed, and the services they are aiming to provide. This ranges from simple single site Microgrids looking to optimise existing energy costs, to multiple sites operating across the public network aiming to access new revenue streams.

There are many parties involved in the development and operation of a Microgrid. This includes Microgrid users themselves who are connected to the Microgrid, a Microgrid operator who provides the control and optimisation, the network manager who runs the local electricity network, the distribution network operator and a retailer or aggregator who can provide access to revenue streams for Microgrid services.

The Microgrid Ecosystem

The following diagram shows the participants and anticipated relationships in Microgrid operations.

Participants and relationships in Microgrid operations.

At Monash, we’ve committed to achieving net zero emissions across our four Australian campuses by 2030. This includes being as energy efficient as possible, shifting to 100% renewable energy from both onsite and offsite sources, and electrifying our buildings to transition away from natural gas.

To help integrate this high penetration of renewables into the grid and allow us to reduce our energy costs, we’ve developed a Microgrid at our Clayton campus, 20km south east of Melbourne’s CBD.

The Microgrid replicates a real city with a variety of old and new buildings, solar photovoltaic cells, energy storage and EV chargers. Whilst a Microgrid tends to conjure up images of remote communities or mining sites, working with our technology partner Indra, we’ve developed a grid interactive system.

This allows us to integrate our local electricity demand and supply with the broader energy market, creating a range of new value streams and helping solve broader problems of integrating renewables into the grid.

In practical terms, this translates to achieving external revenue (or cost savings) via one or more of the following value streams:

  • reducing our peak demand charges;
  • participation in various demand response arrangements – either market based or emergency reserve;
  • provision of FCAS services;
  • optimising for wholesale electricity prices; and
  • assisting in the matching of loads with off site renewables generation (PPA firming).

The following diagram shows the assets that make up the Monash Microgrid.

The Monash Microgrid

Take a virtual tour of the Monash Microgrid

Watch Scott Ferraro and Priya Galketiya provide an overview of the Monash Microgrid at Monash University's Clayton campus.

You may also like to watch The Monash Microgrid to find out more about the Monash University's Microgrid and Smart Energy Framework, or Birchip Cropping Group to find out how the use of Microgrids are being explored in agriculture and farming.