The project is designed to develop a resilient and decarbonised energy system for Australia.
“Australia’s electricity system is undergoing its most significant transformation in a century,” said Heather Logie, Chief Operating Officer of the ANU Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program. The whole economy – not just electricity – was being decarbonised.
Logie continues: “We are now in a race to ‘electrify everything’. This means we need to build an energy ecosystem that is powered by millions of connected and different devices, including batteries, vehicles, and even air conditioners.”
She adds: “The rest of the world will look to Australia to see how we solve these problems as we walk this energy transition first.”
The Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Lab was announced in 2019 with $1.5 million in funding from the ACT Government and support from the ANU, ITP Renewables (a specialist energy consultancy), UNSW Canberra, and Evoenergy.
It contains a replica electricity network with transformers, batteries, and solar generators on the roof connected to EV chargers, where researchers and industry can work together to design technology for the future energy system.
In the laboratory’s first project, scientists will use electric vehicles to support the electricity grid, explained researcher Dr Bjorn Sturmberg. The vehicles (supplied by the ACT Government) are used to transport nurses, but spend a lot of time parked. Their large batteries could feed power back into the energy network.
The lab’s researchers are also working with UNSW Canberra to build a grid controller to remotely access the facility’s capabilities, perhaps even from overseas.
“The rate of change is so rapid now that it’s very hard to predict how the lab will be used over the next 18 years,” said ITP’s Oliver Woldring. “If we go forward 10 years and look back … at the array of technologies, innovations, inventions that get tested in labs such as this … it’ll be amazing.”
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr opened the laboratory. It “cements Canberra’s position as the national leader in renewable energy innovation and collaboration”, he said. Its output would inform decisions made within the national electricity market and by state governments.
Mr Barr hoped it would also inform federal government energy policy. “The frustrating thing, clearly, is that we could run so much faster if [national policy] were more supportive and more conducive to innovation and transition.”