Microgrid Funding For Birchip Cropping Group Project

Birchip Cropping Group

Image: Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) Team

A solar + storage microgrid  project to be constructed at Birchip Cropping Group’s (BCG) facility has been provided funding under the Victorian Government’s Microgrid Demonstration Initiative (MDI).

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio made the announcement at the All Energy Conference & Exhibition in Melbourne.

“The microgrid initiative … was a highly competitive one – we had 55 applications,” said Minister D’Ambrosio. “I’m pleased to announce today one of the successful projects – and that is a project that has been delivered by SwitchDin. SwitchDin has been awarded $210,000 in grant funding for its $390,000 project.”

SwitchDin is an energy technology company focused on distributed energy resources (DERs), including microgrids and virtual power plants (VPPs). SwitchDin will be working with industrial-scale microgrid developer Walnut Energy to deliver the project and Horsham based specialist provider Wade’s will support the project with installation and electrical supplies.

Energy Resilience, Self-Sufficiency And Cost Control

The microgrid will feature 51kW of solar capacity, 137kWh of battery storage and supporting hardware and software to enable the system to continue supplying electricity in the event of a grid outage; for a period of up to three hours. The project seeks to demonstrate the value of energy resilience and self-sufficiency in the rural sector, plus how energy cost savings can be achieved through use of microgrids.

“Rural industries create jobs which rely heavily on access to affordable electricity. Solar & battery storage in microgrids are a cost-effective and flexible option to ensure farmers can grow and develop their businesses,” says SwitchDin.

While BCG’s primary focus has been evidence-based best farming practice since it began in 1992, it has been looking into energy issues as increasing power prices and unreliable supply have taken their toll on farmers.

 “Having a microgrid at BCG is exciting and we are looking forward to engaging with farm businesses and communities that are also keen to exploring the technology,” states BCG.

It’s expected the project will be completed and operating by the middle of next year.

Birchip is located in the Mallee region of Victoria, around 311 kilometres north- west of Melbourne. The BCG installation will also give Birchip’s postcode region (postcode: 3483, population: 889) a noticeable lift in terms of installed  <100kW system capacity, currently sitting at around 568kW (114 systems).

In December last year, the Victorian Government announced its $10 million Microgrid Demonstration Initiative, which offers grants of between $100,000 and $5 million for projects, with view to unlocking renewables-based microgrid markets in the state.

In August this year, a new $3 million grant program was also announced, specifically for the Latrobe Valley, to support the development of microgrids that benefit local business/industry customers.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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