Crackdown on solar inverters could see remote operation become mandatory

Solar inverters on rooftop PV systems could soon be controlled and switched off remotely following a crackdown from clean energy authorities. The Clean Energy Regulator is working with the Australian Energy Market Operator and the Clean Energy Council to make inverter inspections mandatory.

Australian Standard 4777.2-2015 was updated in 2015 and has been in effect since 2016 and now the CER wants regular inspections of new inverter installations to ensure they are compliant with this standard. This standard includes compliance metrics for reactive power capability, new voltage and frequency set-points and limits to be compatible with the requirements of network businesses.

Home automation

And one of the most significant and important requirements under the standard is Demand Response Mode (DRM) which allows for a remote operator to take control of the inverter and even turn it off completely. This is so inverters can be disconnected from the grid, to stop them from generating power or to increase their power production.

South Australia makes moves to remotely shutting down inverters

The SA Government’s Smarter Homes strategy currently enables SA Power Networks (SAPN) the power to remotely shut down and control solar power systems when the grid becomes overloaded with power.

This comes after electricity prices plummeted into the negative in late 2019 because too much solar power was being exported to the grid. If negative prices are sustained over a long period of time it would effectively mean energy companies would have to pay consumers to use their power.

The Smarter Homes strategy aims to regulate energy supply and control home and business solar power systems to match supply and demand after another recent weekend which saw solar supply reach up to 93.7 per cent of state demand.

It is hoped that by controlling the flow of solar energy back to the grid South Australia will have a more solid and reliable network.

Control of home inverters would create a better power system, CER insists

Checks and compliance of the standard commenced from August 10 on all new systems installed which some industry bodies believed was rushed.

The crackdown has not been received well by peak solar bodies who believe it could lead to mass confusion and large volumes of unusable, unsellable and non-compliant inverters sitting on shelves.

But the CER said in a statement it was a necessary move as more and more homes adopt solar solutions to create a regulated energy system that meets all supply and demand requirements.

“Australia now has over 2.5 million grid-connected small-scale solar PV systems, with approximately 310,000 (representing 2.4 GW) installed in 2019. Together these individual systems amount to one of the biggest generators in the electricity grid,” the CER said in a statement.

“Small-scale solar system that comply with Australian standards and DNSP requirements improve the reliability of the grid and allow more systems to be connected in the future. This will ensure the rooftop solar industry can continue to thrive.”

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