How rooftop solar and battery systems can help secure the electricity grid

Networks RenewedNetworks Renewed

Trial results in NSW show how rooftop solar and battery systems can be a valuable resource for regulating the electricity grid.

The Networks Renewed pilot trials were conducted by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS with $1.87 million funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

There is a perception that renewable energy like solar and wind will make the electricity grid’s voltage fluctuate too much.

This is because renewable energy varies in the amount of electricity it produces over a 24 hour period. The distribution network then experiences areas of lower (or higher) voltage than needed.

The trials aimed to show that with battery storage, solar systems can actually contribute to grid stability throughout the day.

Pilot trial in NSW shows promising results

Over the past 12 months a pilot program in Collombatti, NSW, used smart solar PV,  battery systems and solar inverters to help manage grid voltage.

How rooftop solar and battery systems can be used to regulate electricity grid voltage.

How solar can regulate electricity grid voltage. Image: Networks Renewed

Twenty-five solar energy systems linked up to create a virtual power station. This virtual station can help support the grid in times of low or high voltages by generating and storing electricity.

These ‘network support services’ are then requested through a bidding process that traditionally draws on coal or gas-fired stations.

However, the trial’s NSW network partner, Essential Energy, was able to place bids for network support from the virtual power station.

So if the voltage dropped in one part of the grid, the virtual power station topped it up.

In late September, Essential Energy placed two bids for support from the solar-powered virtual station. The station was able to generate over 50kW of electricity, improving local voltage by 1.73%, a successful result.

Ramping up rooftop solar and battery systems to a commercial scale

The next step for the program is to expand the trials to a more significant, market scale. Industry partners will build practical, market-scale demonstrations in both NSW and Victoria. These will show that smart inverter technologies are a viable commercial option for providing network support services.

The demonstrations will be large enough to achieve meaningful improvements to power quality, and generate sufficient market revenues to develop a strong business case for future projects.

More than 150 electricity customers in NSW and Victoria will join the trial. If successful, the trial will show how solar and battery storage can help support larger networks. It will also accelerate the uptake of rooftop solar and battery systems by business and industry.