Australia looks to the rooftop to become a virtual power plant


Australia seeks to harness its abundant rooftop PV capacity through a new system that transforms homes and businesses into smaller power plants that can be managed by grid operators.

The $ 35.5 million pilot program in Perth, Western Australia, called the “Project Symphony,” lasts for two years and includes 500 homes and a total of 900 energy assets, including both batteries and solar generators.

Of the $ 35.5 million figure, WA will invest $ 19.3 million with federal government support of $ 8.6 million and $ 7.6 from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

Western Australia Minister of Energy Bill Johnston praises the new program as a key to solving the problem of increased transmission cables compared to centralized renewable energy stations, while also helping consumers reduce costs. Did.

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Bill Johnston (left) was sworn in to the new Labor Party Cabinet by Western Australian Governor Kim Beazley on March 19, 2021 at the Government House in Perth, Australia. (AAP image / Richard Wayne Wright)

“Virtual power plants have the potential to become the future of WA’s electricity,” Johnston said. Said..

“Currently, there is a power plant at the end of the network, and there are many wires carrying high voltages of hundreds of kilometers,” he said. “But in the future, homes will become power plants through rooftop solar power.”

Energy and Emissions Minister Angus Taylor said WA is very suitable for testing systems that could ultimately benefit all Australians.

“Solar energy uptake is particularly strong in Western Australia, with small solar powers above 1.8 gigawatts installed by homes and businesses, and one in three homes now has rooftop solar,” Taylor said. I am saying.

“As this continues to grow, it is important to understand how solar and battery can work to reduce the costs of all power customers and strengthen the power grid, rather than compromising reliability. “

The management of these “distributed energy resources”, known as DERs, is one of several key challenges that the Australian Energy Security Commission (ESB) needs to address to ensure future energy security. It has been identified as one.

Today, DER is acting as a secondary generator by reducing the demand for existing coal and gas generators and will be output to the grid as soon as power sources such as rooftop solar are available.

However, the surge level of this household generator, which reached more than 3 million facilities across Australia and contributed more than 8% of the country’s total energy production, instead drove the need for a more controlled mechanism. ..

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Industrial turbines used in thermoelectric generators. (Photosoup / Adobe Stock)

This is because sunlight and batteries and wind do not provide frequency control or inertia to the grid. This is an important quality normally offered only in rotary generators of coal, gas, and hydropower plants.

To avoid this, AEMO will need to manually intervene a total of 321 times in 2020, the moment the solar and wind generation reaches a level at risk of loss of the inertial supply thermoelectric generator, the rooftop sun. Blocked the light from the grid.

The ESB has previously warned that, along with DER management, a whole series of reforms will be needed to ensure energy security as more renewable energy generation is deployed.

“This is more than just tweaking the edges,” ESB Chair Kelly Shot said earlier. “It’s about the overall redesign of the electricity market across the country.”

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Energy Security Commission Chair Kelly Schott will speak at the Discussion Forum at the Clean Energy Summit at the International Convention Center on July 30, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (AAPImage / Peter Rae)

Stefan Jarnason, CEO of Solar Analytics, a solar monitoring software and hardware provider, previously pointed to a report by the ESB and AEMO showing the need for a mechanism to better manage DER.

“The biggest problem right now is that there is almost zero how DER works on the grid,” Jarnason previously told The Epoch Times in an email.

He expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of convenience in providing such a mechanism. This is currently planned to change in the new Perth Pilot project.

“DER is growing rapidly and will be the biggest source of power on the grid for the last decade,” said Jarnason. “Nevertheless, no authority has taken the steps agreed by the industry to actually solve the imminent problem.”

Daniel Kumerev


Daniel Khmelev is a Perth-based Australian reporter working on energy, technology and politics. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, physics and computer science. Contact him at [email protected].