Origin Energy has recently announced it will connect more than 600 Victorian properties in a 5 MW solar virtual power plant.
Chief Executive General Manager Retail Jon Briskin said as part of the trial, the company would offer participants access to cheaper batteries and solar PV systems, which would be connected to demand management platforms and the national grid to form a Virtual Power Plant (VPP).
The VPP will use cloud-based demand management tech to optimise the use of photovoltaic panels and batteries during peak periods.
“We will be able to help customers manage their stored and generated electricity, have this traded into the electricity market and reduce demand placed on the existing electricity network,” Briskin said in a media release.
He added the VPP will bring together several decentralised energy trials the company has initiated.
The $20 million project has received a $4.5 million grant from the Victorian State Government’s $10 million Microgrid Demonstration Initiative, which will support eight projects across the state.
Microgrids are small, smart electricity networks – typically distributed over a limited geographical area – that can run independently as ‘islands’ or be linked into the wider power grid. When they are linked to the national grid, microgrids can form part of VPPs.
The Andrews government has also committed $1.24 billion for their Solar Homes scheme, which offers a 50 per cent rebate on solar panels and solar hot water systems. If re-elected at the upcoming election, Labor said it will extend the scheme to provide interest free loans to allow homeowners to install solar panels at no upfront cost.
“We’re ensuring Victoria’s energy system is affordable, resilient and secure, as we transition to the next generation of energy technologies,” said Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.
An independent agency – Solar Victoria – will be established to help deliver the program and work with industry, regulators and training organisations. The program includes $9 million for accrediting 4500 electricians to install the solar panels and batteries.
“A taste of what’s possible”
According to the Victorian Government, the Origin project will be the state’s largest VPP. It won’t be the largest in the country, however. That title goes to the 50,000 home, 250 MW virtual plant in South Australia, which combines 5 kW PV solar systems with Tesla 5 kW/15 kW battery storage systems. The project website also claims their VPP will be the largest in the world.
Although the South Australia VPP was originally proposed by the former Labor government before it lost the March election, the new Coalition State Government agreed to push ahead with the project, which has so far received 37,000 online registrations.
The first 100 systems have been installed in public and community housing, and 1000 more will be installed in the testing phase. The full roll-out to 24,000 public and 25,000 private homes is expected to start in the middle of next year.
The Origin project has been welcomed by Environment Victoria, who recently called on all parties in Victoria to commit to a large-scale VPP using the power from the 650,000 properties covered under the Solar Homes scheme.
Environment Victoria’s Public Policy and Advocacy Manager Dean Rizzetti said the project will give the state a chance to test new ideas and help customers familiarise themselves with new energy technology. But he said it was only a “taste of what’s possible”.
“South Australia’s plant is estimated to provide at least 250 MW of clean energy and reduce household electricity bills by around $90 million a year across the state. In the coming months, we’ll be looking out for more ambitious renewable energy and storage commitments from all sides of politics,” Rizzetti said.
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