22 March 2017
As Australia's largest operating virtual power plant went live in Adelaide, the event was overshadowed by a widely publicised spat between the Premier of South Australia and the federal Minister for Environment and Energy over who is reponsible for South Australia's recent power failures.
Yet, the trial could provide a step towards creating a more stable grid in the State by making use of the large proportion of premises that generate electricity through rooftop solar panels.
AGL Energy Limited's project consists of an interconnected network of batteries which the company is installing across residential and business properties.
The batteries will store the electricity generated by rooftop solar panels at times of low demand, and then discharge the power to the homes at peak demand or to support the grid during periods of instability.
The batteries are installed "behind the meter" and together form a power plant that is centrally managed through the use of a cloud-based platform from Sunverge.
By next year, the company expects to have a 1,000 batteries deployed with a combined capacity of delivering 5 megawatt of electricity.
Similar to other recent initiatives, such as the Decentralised Energy Exchange project in Victoria, the virtual power plant thus provides a Distributed Energy Resource that could make the grid more secure and reliable.
According to AGL, the very fast response time of the system maximises the potential benefits for both consumers and retailers, and by making the most efficient use of the batteries will ultimately bring down costs.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has contributed $5 million to the $20 million project.
And it is also providing $2.1 million to another initiative designed to make rooftop solar more efficient. Solar Analytics is a software company that has designed a technology that monitors the generation and use of the renewably generated electricity, and updates consumers on potential faults in their system. This promises to increase the yield of a rooftop solar system by as much as 15%.