Overhead powerlines.

Minigrids research

CSIRO is developing advanced control techniques for electricity networks to allow greater penetration of renewable and low emission energy resources than is currently possible.

  • 11 November 2009 | Updated 15 November 2012

Australian electricity networks are large and complex with long transmission lines connecting big, centralised generators to widely dispersed consumers.

New grid design and operation techniques have the capacity to significantly transform electricity networks and minigrids are seen as an evolutionary path to this transformation.

The CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship is undertaking a minigrid research project at the CSIRO Renewable Energy Integration Facility in Newcastle, Australia.

CSIRO minigrid research

Research is focused on creating techniques that allow greater penetration of renewable energy in electricity networks and are completely portable across all generation methods, now and into the future.

This research will not only benefit developed countries with existing electricity networks, such as Australia, but also assist in the low-emissions electrification of developing countries.

The project is funded by the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

CSIRO minigrid research is focused on increasing the penetration of renewable energy resources in electricity grids.

Under this project CSIRO is collaborating with The Energy Resources Institute of India (TERI) to assist with the low-emissions electrification of rural areas in India.

What is a minigrid?

Minigrids are small clusters of loads and generators linked together and sharing one point of connection to the wider electricity grid. 

In this way minigrids reduce the complexity of controlling ever increasing numbers of renewable generators scattered around the network and also assist grid reliability by helping isolate grid failures.

Benefits

Minigrids are an adaptation of existing electricity networks and can be implemented without major changes to network infrastructure.

They offer many benefits to Australia, including:

  • increased reliability of electricity supplies
  • higher penetration of renewable generation such as wind and solar
  • localised generation, reducing transmission losses
  • removal of common failure points
  • reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a real step towards zero emission communities.

Target applications

Target applications include:

  • hospitals
  • shopping centres
  • apartment complexes
  • housing estates
  • industrial estates
  • education institutes
  • island and remote communities.

These are applications where reliability is important, load is concentrated and distributed embedded generation is likely.

Partnerships

CSIRO’s minigrid research project aims to add intelligence to existing electrical network infrastructure.

CSIRO is currently seeking research collaborations in this area with: 

  • utilities
  • developers
  • building operators
  • industry
  • research facilities.

Find our more about the work of the Energy Transformed Flagship.