Portable Hybrid Microgrid Up and Running in One Week for Australia Village: ABB

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A new portable hybrid microgrid system was up in running in an Australian village within one week of leaving the factory more than 600 miles away.

Six months later it was packed up and relocated for use elsewhere. The disassembly required less than 170 hours of labor.

Called SunSHIFT, the hybrid system can use solar, diesel and natural gas generators, governed by a microgrid control system created by ABB. The remote Queensland pilot project operated on 141 kilowatt peak (kWp) of solar photovoltaics and 1 MW of diesel generation from four units already at the site.

SunSHIFT is being developed and commercialized by Laing O’Rourke, a UK-based engineering and construction giant that is working in collaboration with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

In a recent report on the system, Laing O’Rourke described it as the first world’s first fully re-deployable solar-diesel hybrid plant.

The modular system is transported in container-sized, prefabricated modules. It is designed so that workers can quickly assemble the power plant at a remote location and if necessary later take it down for use elsewhere.

Energy storage also can be incorporated into the portable hybrid microgrid as an option.

Laing O’Rourke lists several benefits of the system. In addition to its portability, it reduces diesel fuel consumption because it is augmented with solar. Th systems also reduces carbon emissions, exposure to fuel price volatility, frequency of fuel tank refills, truck movements in remote locations and potential fuel spills. Runtime for the diesel generators decreases and plant longevity rises, according to the report..

Furthermore, in some areas the mining sector is already acknowledging that offsetting onsite fossil fuel power generation with renewable energy can reduce operating costs and improve energy security and productivity, said ABB in a news release about the project.

portable hybrid microgrid

Portable hybrid microgrid set up in one week. Photo Credit: Above Photography

The pilot used ABB’s Microgrid Plus System, a microgrid controller designed to coordinate the operation of hybrid power stations, stabilizing and integrating renewable power generation into microgrid systems.

ABB is also supplying other equipment for the portable hybrid microgrid, such as solar inverters, controllers, remote access routers and Ethernet switches.

ABB sees potential for such hybrid systems for industries and communities in remote off-grid locations. The system also could be used for emergency relief efforts.

Laing O’Rourke and ARENA are now in talks about possible future collaboration to roll out the SunShift commercially.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.