Technical report

Beyond White Gum Valley Precinct guide: the Energy Village concept

Energy consumption Electricity distribution networks Western Australia

The ‘Beyond White Gum Valley Precincts Guide: The Energy Village Concept’ objective is to assist design teams and planning assessment officers on ‘innovative’ and achievable options for implementing a precinct distributed energy system (DES). Balance’s starting point is that the objective for the precinct’s embedded electricity system is to minimise utility grid import and reduce external dependency while increasing residents’ energy savings and incorporating community energy sharing potential.

A precinct-scale DES can be ultimately designed as a ‘smart embedded network’ (SEN). The SEN is a grid-tied microgrid with additional ability to integrate, monitor and optimise (and potentially peer-to-peer trade) distributed energy, storage, load and demand while maintaining interaction with the main grid.

Integrating battery energy storage with solar PV within the embedded network, either behind the customer meter (rooftop solar PV and household storage) or in front of the customer meter (embedded generation and central shared storage) means the embedded network’s community can make full use of solar electricity surpluses, before drawing from the main grid.

For greenfield and brownfield restoration developments, the precinct would benefit from being managed with a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) platform, and the network fitted (where possible) with a Distributed Energy Resources Management Systems (DERMS). This will optimise the use of on-site renewable energy assets by allowing more PV to be installed and fed in, and further reduce PV curtailment. These benefits enhance the return on investment (ROI) of PV and storage investments on the precinct, and, the authors believe, will, in turn, increase the value of – and the appeal for – the precinct and provide positive impacts on reduced GHG emissions.

The authors have introduced the concept and vision for the precinct-scale SEN as an ‘Energy Village’. This begins with defining the concept of a ‘village’ as a community gathered in the same geographic area that shares interests, infrastructures, local resources, and which are often managed by specific rules.

The energy producers and consumers interconnected to the village’s SEN are considered ‘villagers’’ and the village is governed by agreed specific energy rules, The success of a village relies on achieving a workable balance of power between the villagers and the village; individual interest vs community interest. Its goal is to create and share a set of efficient, effective and affordable energy resources which benefit the individuals within the village and the village as a whole.

To ensure an effective implementation of this innovative energy network paradigm shift, the facilitating infrastructure and the rules behind the Energy Village should enable every villager to have access to reliable and affordable energy supply which can be expanded as required to run their operations (including electric vehicle charging) and allow investment in on-site generation and in particular renewable generation.

This report takes a relatively high-level look into precinct-scale DES, including energy modelling, and introducing the Energy Village concept, delivering advice and guidance.

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