Australia considers new off-grid, 100% renewables town in Hunter Valley

The Huntlee residential development will be the first new town in the Hunter Valley – where coal mining and electricity production are main industries – for 50 years. When complete, it is expected to house 20,000 residents in 7,500 properties.

Falling renewable energy costs and "substantial" connection costs have led to an investigation into the possibility of building the new town off the grid, and powered entirely by renewable energy. The concept is being developed by the Huntlee project director, LWP Property Group, in addition to Brookfield Energy Australia and Flow Systems.

A total of $1.1 million is being invested in the initial study, which will assess the feasibility of achieving a 100% renewable microgrid, $442,000 of which is being provided by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). In particular, renewables, battery storage and enabling technologies will be assessed for their reliability and cost-effectiveness.

If positive, ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht says the town will "set a precedent" and could "accelerate the uptake of renewables in Australia." He added, "There are a number of regulatory challenges and constraints and technical risks facing microgrids. Brookfield will share key insights about overcoming these barriers with the energy industry."

Flow Systems MD expanded, stating, "Our goal is to develop a model that has 10 times the penetration of renewables for the equivalent cost of energy. Proving this can be done technically and commercially will be a real step change for embedded renewables in this country."