A new research centre at Federation University is helping regional communities make the tricky transition to renewable energies.

Story Ken Eastwood  Photo Star of the South

In 2022, the Centre for New Energy Transition Research was set up with $2.43 million of Federal Government funding to help regional and remote communities move towards 100% renewable-powered economies. Based at Federation University’s rural campuses, with the main hub being at Mount Helen, Ballarat, Vic, the centre is conducting research into areas such as microgrids, future fuels and net zero initiatives. 

“Other energy research centres mainly focus on city energy transition, but this one is particularly close to rural communities and the energy transition problems that rural Victorians face,” says Rakib Shah, a lead researcher at the centre. 

Jacob Politakis, a third-year electrical engineering student from Traralgon, Vic, is soon to commence his Honours research at the centre. It is likely to focus on how to improve stability as more renewable energy systems are added to the grid. “The sun is not always shining, the wind’s not always blowing, but the grid needs certain requirements to be met to be stable,” he says.

Jacob’s home region of the Latrobe Valley is currently in a major transition as its long-running coal-driven electricity generators are closed. “Hazelwood closed in 2017, and 3 more are scheduled for closure in the coming decades,” he says. “When they started to close there was a bit of negative attitude … but I think having these new projects like Star of the South is helping to sway opinions. The Latrobe Valley is not going to turn into nothing. There is a lot of work going into making it the hub for renewable energy in Victoria.”

Star of the South is one of the major developers hoping to build windfarms in Bass Strait, off the Gippsland coast, the first area the Federal Government declared suitable for development. Jacob has completed a one-year cadetship with the company and continues to work with it on an ad hoc basis.

This story excerpt is from Issue #152

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2024