A MULTI-MILLION dollar microgrid and energy farm at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus is expected to slash its energy usage by half and create jobs.
Deakin University and AusNet Services are co-developing a $30 million energy project that will include a 14.5ha energy farm, 7.25 megawatt smart microgrid, a one megawatt battery storage capacity and an integrated research and visualisation centre.
The project, Waurn Ponds Smart Energy Partnership, has been in planning for more than 12 months and was first revealed by the Geelong Advertiser in 2016 when Deakin directors were in preliminary talks with South Korean group Doarm Engineering.
Deakin Energy director Dr Adrian Panow said the significant project would lead to innovative research and job creation. The initial 12-month site construction phase is expected to generate 25 construction jobs and a further five off-site supply jobs directly linked to the microgrid.
The largest number of ongoing jobs will be in research and technical support, while the research centre will also be accessed by students.
“We estimate ... 10 new positions initially but it is already clear that this number will grow,” Dr Panow said.
“We envisage numerous commercialisation opportunities to come from the research program, which will lead to new advanced manufacturing opportunities.”
University vice-chancellor Jane den Hollander said the project’s potential wind turbine farm would be located on a vacant block of university land.
“We need to look at the problems that the community has — there is no point in doing research not relevant to the community,” Prof den Hollander said.
“One of the things we know is, over the last decade and into future decades, there has been an emerging focus as to how we look at energy and its sustainability.
“It’s very important to do that with industry. There is no point getting an academic solution, we need a practical solution from which everyone will benefit.”
The solar energy farm will be supported by rooftop solar panels and one megawatt battery storage, which is expected to power the campus from mid-2019.
Prof den Hollander said the university hoped research could lead to other campuses and small communities, including those in Geelong, being powered by renewable energies. Deakin and AusNet Services are currently in talks with directors from the neighbouring Epworth hospital.
AusNet Services’ managing director, Nino Ficca, said the partnership was reflective of the significant shift in how energy is generated, delivered and used.
“Our aim is to explore what the future energy possibilities might be and use the research outcomes to empower communities and customers,” Mr Ficca said. “The opportunities that can be created leveraging this initiative are limitless.”
Deakin expects to reduce its carbon emissions by 12,000 tonnes per year.
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