‘Virtual power plant’ set to land in South Australia

by Sara Kirby
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The world’s largest battery storage ‘virtual power plant’ is set to land in South Australia, boosting grid stability, reducing power price volatility and supporting renewable energy.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has conditionally committed up to $5 million for AGL to install 1000 centrally-controlled batteries in South Australian homes and businesses with a combined 5 MW/7 MWh storage capacity.

ARENA chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht says the $20 million project can point to solutions in South Australia’s grid challenges and reduce the risk of power price shocks in the state.

“Australia is on the cusp of a battery storage revolution as technology costs continue to fall. ARENA is at the forefront of figuring out how batteries can best support renewable energy to provide affordable, reliable and sustainable power,” Frischknecht says.

“When small-scale batteries work together they become more than the sum of their parts. AGL plans to operate the batteries as a kind of virtual power plant, installing them alongside solar PV and linking all 1000 systems with centralised monitoring and management software.

“The result is like adding a 5 MW power station that can quickly deliver enough energy to power 1000 South Australian homes where and when it’s needed most. This approach can ease local network constraints, displace gas power and complement the Victorian interconnector, especially during times of peak demand.”

Frischknecht says ARENA expects virtual power plants to play a significant role in the future as more renewable energy is connected to power networks.

“This project is set to be the largest demonstration of a virtual power plant in the country. South Australia is home to some of the highest levels of solar and wind in the world, making it an ideal proving ground,” he says.

“It could also act as a catalyst and provide evidence for regulatory change to enable more Australian virtual power plants. ARENA funding support depends on the negotiation of a funding agreement, which will include comprehensive knowledge sharing outcomes.

“The knowledge would show a path to commercialisation and present lessons that regulators and other energy companies can learn from.”

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