ARENA backs mini wind turbines to power off-grid communications | RenewEconomy

ARENA backs mini wind turbines to power off-grid communications

Australian designed mini wind turbines set to deliver power to off-grid telecommunications systems, receives ARENA backing.


The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will provide $341,990 in grant funding to support the development of mini wind turbines designed to power off-grid telecommunications towers and remote applications.

The Newcastle-based start-up Diffuse Energy has developed a 500-watt mini wind turbine, which will be used as part of a $922,000 trial to demonstrate the ability to power off-grid communications systems.

During the 2019-20 summer of bushfires, many regional communities found themselves disconnected from communications systems, including mobile phone networks, when fires caused critical telecommunication infrastructure to be disconnected from the electricity grid.

This led to calls for communications systems to be equipped with standalone power systems, and Diffuse Energy believe their mini wind turbine design could be an ideal solution, boosting reliability and lowing emissions by reducing dependence on the mains grid and diesel backup generators.

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, partnering with deployable solar provider 5B and battery giant Tesla, stepped in to roll out a number of remote solar and storage systems to restore power to communities affected by the bushfires.

The inclusion of a wind turbine has the potential to complement other technologies like solar and battery storage in remote energy systems, by providing a supply of power throughout both the night and day, as well as being deployed in areas where solar panels are impractical.

Diffuse Energy has designed its Hyland 920 mini wind turbines to overcome some of the common issues faced by remote deployments, including the challenge of maintaining turbines in remote regionals and lower performance due to their smaller scale.

Diffuse Energy is a spin-off of work undertaken by colleagues at the University of Newcastle, and is targeting a global market for remote power systems for telecommunications infrastructure. The company estimates that around $3.4 billion is expected to be spent by the communications industry on distributed energy systems by 2024.

“Telecommunication providers depend on secure and resilient energy generation in order to deliver essential communication services,” Diffuse Energy CEO Joss Kesby said. “The industry is also rapidly moving towards net zero carbon emissions creating a very strong demand for innovative, cost-effective renewable technologies.”

“A nationwide rollout of our wind turbine technology to these sites could displace 17 GWh and 33,000 tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuelled generation per year. Equivalent to $43.9 million in savings of diesel fuel, transportation costs, and generator maintenance.”

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will a trial of the mini wind turbines, with ten systems set to be installed across telecommunications towers at different locations across Australia.

“Diffuse Energy’s micro wind technology offers an opportunity for a renewable energy solution to reduce emissions for off-grid telecommunications, while also ensuring the resilience of these towers in being able to operate at critical times such as during bushfires,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said.

“ARENA is excited to be assisting an Australian start-up in proving the effectiveness of their small wind turbine technology which could have large market potential across many markets and applications. While this particular project is focusing on communications towers, the technology could also have other potential applications including mining, small microgrids and farming.”

Diffuse Energy had previously participated in ARENA’s A-Lab initiative, which served as a way for the agency to incubate potential renewable energy solutions prior to their application for grant funding.

If the trial proves successful, Diffuse Energy hopes to scale up the deployment of their mini wind turbine designs across more locations.

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