NSW virtual power plant a winner: Sydney couple paid for owning solar battery

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A Sydney couple is “getting paid to have a battery” as part of a NSW virtual power plant (VPP) with Ausgrid that pools the solar battery power of 233 households.

Johnson and Grace Lee told the Sydney Morning Herald that the trial has already reduced their electricity bill. They receive credits for installing solar energy with battery storage.

Johnson Lee said: “We’re getting paid to have a battery.” He added that they had paid for electric power on just 80 days out of the last 180. That period includes Sydney’s hot, humid Summer, which creates demand for cooling.

NSW virtual power plant backs up grid, cuts household bills

The trial includes 233 households across 170 suburbs in Sydney, the Central Coast and Hunter Valley.

Families taking part in the NSW VPP program receive up to $135 a year in cash payments or bill credits. This depends on the size of their solar battery system.

Participating households allow their batteries to push all stored power back to the grid 10-15 times a year. This generally happens during times of peak electricity demand. As a result the VPP backs up and stabilises grid power.

Ausgrid partnered with battery maker Reposit Power to create the 1 MW VPP. The scheme is part of Ausgrid’s Power2U initiative. It is also part of Ausgrid’s broader $7 million demand management program.

AEMC wants new rules boosting solar gardens and VPPs

VPPS are becoming increasingly popular in Australia. They combine energy stored in multiple household batteries into a single power pool. As a result it works like a generator, feeding energy back to the grid in milliseconds.

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) wants to make it easier for solar power users to join VPPs.

Last year, the AEMC recommended a change in legislation. At the moment, only one service provider has access to each customer, usually an electricity retailer.

Under new rules, customers could access multiple service providers. They could also access electricity generated by providers like community solar gardens to VPPs.

VPPs now taking off across Australia

VPPs like the NSW virtual power plant are being tested across the country.

Tesla, AGL and South Australia collaborated to create possibly the world’s largest VPP.

The second phase kicked off this year. Solar panels and Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries are therefore being installed for free in selected Housing SA households.

As a result more than 50,000 low-income South Australian houses will take part in the VPP. They will deliver 250 MW of solar power with 650 MWh of energy storage capacity.

Meanwhile, Origin Energy plans to build a 5 MW VPP connecting 650 Victorian residents with solar batteries.

More than 500 households also took part in an award-winning Canberra VPP last year.