AGL set to deliver solar “electricity round the clock” with new virtual power plant

With feed-in tariffs set to fall in South Australia, one of the biggest concerns for solar households, is losing excess power back to the grid instead of using it at home.   

Now, energy giant AGL is looking to solve this problem by introducing a network of 1,000 centrally controlled solar batteries that will be installed in homes and businesses across Adelaide.

What makes this innovative technology, dubbed the world’s largest virtual power plant, unique is the batteries will work in unison to store excess power and control the demand on the grid, especially during peak electricity consumption times.

Given that South Australia has been in the news for the country’s highest electricity prices, a project like this can help people consume more of the energy generated from their own rooftop solar systems leading to lower power bills.

“This project is the world’s largest, the first of its kind and an innovative solution to both help customers manage their energy bills and at the same time contribute to grid stability,” said AGL Managing Director & CEO, Andy Vesey.

Other organisations contributing to the project are the Federal Government’s renewables funding agency, The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and a leading US-based energy storage and management company, Sunverge.

“Australia is on the cusp of a battery storage revolution as technology costs continue to fall. AGL plans to operate the batteries as a kind of virtual power plant, installing them alongside solar PV (photovoltaic) and ­linking all 1000 systems with centralised monitoring and management software,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht told The Australian.

“The result is like adding a 5MW power station that can quickly deliver enough energy to power 1000 South Australian homes where and when it’s needed most.”

South Australian Treasurer and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis, said “The State Government congratulates AGL for looking at innovative ways to use batteries to increase the penetration of renewables. We encourage others in the private sector to also consider how dispatchable renewable energy technology can be used to deliver electricity around-the-clock.”

The Sunverge storage batteries, which normally cost $16,000 if purchased outside of the project, will be available for just $3500 under the heavily-subsidised program, reported the Financial Review. For households with enough excess solar power, this is expected to result in a seven year payback period.

The $20 million project will be rolled out in three phases over 18 months, with the first phase running until April 2017.

Households that are not connected to solar, can look at reducing their electricity costs by shopping around for a cheaper energy plan. According to Mozo’s online energy comparison tool, a 3-person household in Adelaide can save around $572 a year by switching from the average to the cheapest electricity plan.


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