Taking The “Microgrid” Scenic Route – Byrd’s Australian Homecoming

Taking The “Microgrid” Scenic Route – Byrd’s Australian Homecoming

On a recent visit to her home of Sydney, Australia ACEP’s Amanda Byrd took her mum, who she hadn’t seen for over two years, for a backpacking trip to Tasmania. Tasmania is that little island at the bottom that looks like it fell off Australia. It didn’t quite fall off; sea level rising 30,000 years ago flooded a plain that spanned what is now Bass Strait.

While on the Tassie trip, Byrd and her mum, Betty, also visited King Island – an island sitting in the middle of Bass Strait. The side trip was to investigate a cutting edge microgrid that is similar to that of Kotzebue, Alaska with its integrated wind and solar installations, with the addition of two 4.2 ton flywheels and a 3 MW lead acid battery energy storage system. Until recently, the battery was the largest in Australia. The microgrid load is around 2.6 MW and the island also has around 1 MW of residential rooftop solar and buys excess solar at a 1 to 1 rate, $0.25 per kWh – the same rate residents pay for their power.

A recent addition to the microgrid is a 200 kW demonstration wave energy device that has been operating since July 2021 in a bay near the town of Grassy. The Wave Swell system operates with very few moving parts making it an interesting innovation for ocean energy.

The microgrid is operated by the state utility Hydro Tasmania (there is no hydropower on King Island), which serves the island of 1,600 residents, a healthy export beef industry, a famous cheese industry, world-class golfing, bull kelp industries, and scheelite mining. The microgrid tour included discussions about the sister island, Flinders Island, to the northeast of Tasmania which has a similar microgrid, and tours of the Wave Swell ocean energy system.

King Island, while stunningly beautiful, is tragically the final resting place for around 140 shipwrecks. It now boasts the tallest lighthouse in Australia – a towering 85 meters (278 ft). And, similar to Alaska, the island is a fishing mecca with wild fish harvests including flathead, Australian salmon, snapper and lobster, and a fleet of kelp carters who harvest bull kelp at low tide for commercial processing and shipment around the world.

July 27-29, 2022, Cordova, Alaska will host the Tasmanian led IPS Connect Conference. The conference organizers, ACEP and Renewable Energy Alaska Project are currently finalizing the agenda and details will be available in the coming weeks. 

Byrd had the pleasure of sitting down with King Island Community Radio 100.5 FM to talk about microgrid technology, visiting with Wave Swell Energy staff during her trip and the similarities between Alaska and Australia's energy and power challenges. Have a listen here.


Wave Swell Energy's chief executive officer, Paul Geason (left) and project manager Tom Wilson (right) talk in front of the UniWave200 wave energy device installed near Grassy, King Island. Photo by Amanda Byrd.