Researcher takes on solar challenge with support from Advance Queensland
Published:16 March 2023
CQUniversity renewable energy researcher Dr Umme Mumtahina has been awarded a $240,000 boost for a Queensland grid project that could provide sustainable, renewable energy to rural communities.
A CQUniversity renewable energy researcher has been awarded a $240,000 boost for a Queensland grid project that could provide sustainable, renewable energy to rural communities in the state and beyond.
Dr Umme Mumtahina’s research project Shaping Queensland’s Grid for Sustainable Growth of Renewables in Rural Communities has been funded over three years through the Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship program administered by the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport (DTIS).
The project has also been backed by industry partners Elexsys Energy with another $357,512 in funding to ensure the success of the innovative project.
The solar energy project hopes to mitigate some of the current challenges facing a rapid increase in roof top solar particularly in rural areas.
Dr Mumtahina said the Queensland Government had set some big targets for renewable energy over the next decade and along with the many opportunities this provided many challenges for energy infrastructure.
“The Queensland Government has a 70 percent renewables energy target by 2032 which will create a pathway for net zero emission over the next few decades, but to meet this target Queensland will need a rapid increase in roof top solar.
“With the increase of penetration of distributed energy resources in the grid, there comes some challenges such as voltage rise and voltage unbalance, particularly in rural areas.
“This project will use an innovative system approach to construct a comprehensive roadmap for the utilisation of distributed renewable energy resources.”
Dr Mumtahina explained that the traditional centralised utility grid is an extensive interconnected network that takes energy from large far away generation plants and transmits it via long transmission lines to houses, hospitals and businesses.
She said many rural towns in Queensland are supplied by single circuit radial medium voltage feeders (mainly 33 kV and 66 kV), supplying small lightly loaded substations over relatively long distances (often from 50 km to 100 km in circuit length).
Many of these networks experience frequent outages due to storms, bushfires and other natural events, and the rural lines are themselves a fire risk.
“The cost of maintaining those lines in service is increasing. These costs represent a significant and growing ‘bow wave’ of capital and operating costs for the industry, which will be passed on to the general community via network charges."
“Again, when rooftop PV (photovoltaic) systems will be increasing, generation from the customer side will also be increasing, which will cause reverse power flow back to the grid.
Dr Mumtahina’s project hopes to prove that by installing ElexSys STATCOM units in conjunction with battery systems, voltage rise issues can be alleviated.
“The ElexSys system combines innovative hardware and software to regulate voltage,” Dr Mumtahina explained.
“Distributed energy storages will also be added to the grid to store energy during daytime and play it back at nighttime to maintain the network.
“By integrating rooftop solar PV and battery energy storage systems, the reliability and power quality of the electricity supply to rural communities will be enhanced. This will also help to build resilience against natural disasters.”
Dr Mumtahina’s project will work with the Winton Shire Council to trial this system in the rural community over the next three years.
If successful, the systems could be rolled out to rural areas throughout Queensland and beyond.
The Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowships program is part of the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland strategy.
Dr Umme Mumtahina with Queensland Minister for Tourism, Innovation and Sport Stirling Hinchliffe, receiving her fellowship certificate.
The Advance Queensland strategy supports Queensland’s innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs to create the industrial engines needed to make Queensland a global innovation economic powerhouse and supports the creation of jobs now and into the future.
Originally from Bangladesh, Dr Mumtahina came to Australia as an electrical and electronics engineer in 2014 to pursue her PhD at CQUniversity.
After completing her PhD she has worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University with much of her research interests in renewable energy.