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AGL responds to SA’s energy instability with virtual power plant


AGL Energy Limited is building a virtual power plant in Adelaide to service homes and small businesses, in a prototype that could be rolled out nationally.

Homes in Adelaide have started receiving the first battery installations as part of the Virtual Power Plant trial.

Each household battery can ‘talk’ to each other through a cloud-based platform using smart controls. When complete, this connected system will be able to operate as a 5MW solar plant, powering hundreds of local homes.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said ARENA was working to address the challenge of making energy systems more stable – both in South Australia and nationally – through projects such as the virtual power plant.

“Storing and delivering energy at individual houses means power is available very close to where it’s being used, and that has a range of benefits,” said Frischknecht.

“Instead of getting electricity from large power stations outside cities that’s fed across long power lines, sometimes from different states, households can now use power from the sun, captured and stored from their own roofs.

“Central cloud-based controls allow AGL to operate these systems like a typical power station, with even faster response times – discharging electricity to consumers’ homes during periods of high demand and supporting the grid during periods of instability.

“Ultimately, this means virtual power plants could be rolled out across the country to provide reliable, affordable renewable energy to Australians.”

Frischknecht said influencing regulatory change was another of the project’s goals.

“It’s important for regulators to see how these systems work in real networks so they can make evidence-based decisions when they’re updating market rules. And for AGL and other energy companies, the lessons learned will be invaluable in the future roll-out of similar systems in other locations.”

ARENA is providing $5 million towards the $20 million project, contingent on the negotiation of a final funding agreement.

The rollout of batteries will continue into 2017.

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