Backstory

When natural disasters strike one of the problems that community and emergency workers face is absence of electricity. Having energy supply is critical for people during disaster times, mainly for communication purposes and use of any medical equipment. Microgrid is a small scale energy distribution network that allows to disconnect from regional grid and generate own electricity.

Wind microgrids is the best choice for off-grid energy supply in areas of Australia that are prone to such natural disasters as cyclones and storms. Solar panels proved to be less efficient during natural disasters with a risk of breaking down when they are needed the most. As for wind turbines - wind gusts reach their peak during such disasters and, therefore, more energy is generated.

The compact turbines (aka mini wind turbines) have been in market for years and the manufacturers are keen to install them to the locations with power supply difficulties. Our goal is to coordinate the wind energy with other energy sources that are vulnerable in their own ways (solar panel may crack/shattered, batteries run out quick, diesel generators need fuel and fuel is difficult to transport and store), and via the information sharing technology, utilise wind power to improve the communities’ disaster resilience ability.

Design Goals

Our goal is to coordinate the wind energy with other energy sources that are vulnerable in their own ways (solar panel may crack/shattered, batteries run out quick, diesel generators need fuel and fuel is difficult to transport and store), and via the information sharing technology, utilise wind power to improve the communities’ disaster resilience ability. On the platform we are creating, the community gets help and also has the opportunity to help.

What we have done

Created a video showing the use of a prototype application. Developed a prototype application to help the community cope with power outages after a disaster, by using a renewable energy micro-grid and power information sharing approach.

Challenges and wins

Challenges included -Developing an interactive medium for emergency services to interact with areas were electricity is available and how they can use the application to assist them in responding to emergencies. -Integrating the renewable micro-grid to the power demand of critical infrastructures. -Developing a way for users to request electricity, and which source of electricity to use for which infrastructure.

The wins experienced during the process are that -a system was put into place to select the power source to be used based on the infrastructure's critical rating -the critical infrastructures can be kept running using backup generators acquired from sources which need them least.

  • the idea to provide the emergency services team with a power map showing areas were there is electricity available, in the event of a power outage, to assist their decision making in responding to emergencies.

What's next for community power

What we’ll do next: Polish our idea and prototype; find a wind turbine manufacturer that supports the idea and form a JV; and shortlist a few suburb where a pilot project may be implemented.

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