The Alice Springs Future Grid project has flicked the switch on its Solar Connect Virtual Power Plant (VPP) that will examine how the orchestration of distributed energy resources can enable higher penetration levels of renewables into the grid while building on system security and stability.
The 12-month-long Solar Connect trial, the first residential VPP in the Northern Territory (NT), involves about 50 participants. Most are residential energy customers with rooftop solar PV and a battery energy storage system.
The town-wide trial will comprise about 300-400 kW of rooftop PV capacity while batteries will provide 250-350 kW of instantaneous power and 400–500 kWh of storage capacity.
Newcastle-based energy management software company Switchdin will deliver the technology platform that orchestrates the solar generation and battery energy storage systems in Alice Springs’ isolated electrical grid.
The NT government said the trial will provide data and learnings to inform how small-scale generation can reliably and securely contribute energy into the electricity system to meet security and network needs.
It will also assist in meeting peak electricity demand when needed through the coordinated dispatch of stored solar energy, and support consideration of a framework to unlock value for customers from their solar and or battery systems.
“The VPP will help stabilise the power grid and reduce household dependence on energy from centralised electricity generators,” NT Energy Minister Selena Uibo said. “We know lessons learnt through this project will help inform our future electricity system plans and it is encouraging to see Alice Springs locals contributing to this bank of knowledge through their participation in this innovative trial.”
Future Grid Project director Lyndon Frearson said while the Alice Springs trial will help inform the clean energy future of the NT, it could also be of great significance to the National Energy Market (NEM).
“In addition to Solar Connect demonstrating part of what a clean energy future might look like locally, industry from across Australia is keeping a close eye on what happens here on the Alice Springs grid,” he said.
“That’s because this small but complex electricity system represents something of a test bed for larger grids. It has characteristics of larger grids, but the effects of interventions – such as a VPP – are easier to see, making it quicker and easier to learn what works and what is less effective.”
The Solar Connect VPP is just one of a series of trials, models and investigations being rolled out as part of the $12.5m Alice Springs Future Grid project, a collaborative effort led by the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy to identify how Alice Springs – which currently includes about 10% renewables generation – can achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030.