For years, the Optimist Daily has been a vocal advocate of microgrids for their ability to provide a reliable, low-cost source of clean energy to local areas. On top of that, microgrids are optimal because they don’t rely on a national grid and can function separately even if a national grid fails.
That brings us to Australia where the recent bushfires have left thousands of people in rural areas without power. Seeing that it could be months before power is restored, a new project called the Resilient Energy Collective is working to quickly roll out solar power and batteries at dozens of sites to create microgrids for communities in need.
In a community called Goongerah, solar panels now power a community center that people living nearby can use for refrigeration, charging devices, and an internet connection; the area still doesn’t have phone service. In another rural area in New South Wales, an emergency communications tower now runs on solar. The system was installed in two days.
Before it went in, firefighters had to rely on diesel generators, and refueling the generators could take as many as five hours a day. Generators are also expensive to use and, of course, they’re also highly polluting—adding to the climate pollution that is making both fires and severe flooding more likely in Australia.
The new collective will quickly add solar and battery systems to up to 100 sites. It’s an echo of what happened in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria when solar and battery microgrids helped restore power at hospitals, community centers, fire stations, and other critical sites. In Puerto Rico, though some of those microgrids were meant for temporary use, the island now wants to build a more extensive network that makes the grid more resilient in future disasters.