ANU project to turn households into mini solar power stations, to boost grid, reward consumers

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ARENA grants ANU project $2.9m to install solar and battery storage at 40 homes on Tasmania’s Bruny Island, and use Australian-made software to trade electricity with the grid when needed during peaks.

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A ground-breaking project that will allow a select group of households on Tasmania’s Bruny Island to sell their surplus, battery-stored solar power generation back to the grid has been granted $2.9 million from ARENA, in the latest round of funding announced by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The-Neck

The three-year, $8 million project, which is called CONSORT (consumer energy systems providing cost-effective grid support), will be led by the Australian National University.

Its main aim is to test two of the major challenges facing electricity networks around Australia as consumers race to cut their bills by installing rooftop solar and battery storage: how to coordinate consumers’ battery systems to achieve capacity and voltage support outcomes; and how to reward consumers for the services their battery systems provide?

It will do this by helping up to 40 homes on the island of around 600 residents – which is also a major tourist attraction and holiday spot in south east Tasmania – to become “mini power stations”, by installing rooftop solar and battery storage, as well as energy management software developed by Canberra-based company Reposit Power, that allows the households to actively trade with their electricity provider, TasNetworks.

Importantly, for Bruny Island’s purposes, it means the households can supply energy to the insland’s mini-grid during the busy holiday season, when the population swells and electricity demand rises.

This, in turn, will relieve stress on the undersea cable supplying the island and reduce the need for expensive diesel-fuelled generators. It will also reduce TasNetworks’ operational costs on the island, while rewarding consumers for their investment and support.

At the announcement of the latest round of ARENA funding recipients on Wednesday, ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the Bruny Island project was one of two “integrating renewables-type projects” being led by the ANU that had won government funding.

“Because Bruny Island is an off-grid situation, they have a very high penetration of renewables, and a very good wind resource; so how can you actually use renewables and storage in combination, renewables at a very high penetration level, to supply secure energy to the people there?

“They have a particular problem, in that lots of holiday-makers go there, so there are times of the year when they have lots of demand, and if they have lots of demand and there’s no sun or wind at that moment, what do they do? And so it’s about designing a whole network that way,” Frischknecht said.

Reposit co-foudner, Dean Spaccavento, said he expected the Bruny Island project to become a great example of how his company’s technology could transform the energy system while benefiting consumers.

“A battery with a solar panel can be converted into a remarkable power station,” Spaccavento said in a statement on Thursday.

“It’s fast and can both produce and consume power in an instant. It’s just the type of power station that the future needs. We think its very important that homes across Australia be able to participate in electricity markets.”

The three-year project will be joined by researchers at the University of Tasmania and University of Sydney to monitor CONSORT’s success, in collaboration with TasNetworks.

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3 Comments
  1. Ian 3 years ago

    This is a very nice project with some interesting parameters. Holiday season, probably refers to the summer. October to February. The population swells with holiday makers, 600 permanent residents perhaps 3000 holiday makers. There is a sub sea link providing power to the island but it’s not enough to supply the holiday peak. They have a very good wind resource but the place is a holiday destination. This would be a good example of designing rooftop solar to cover the summer load – long days, plenty of light, increased demand. A few large wind turbines to exploit the wind resource but not in a visually intrusive way – wind and sunshine are usually complimentary (like the ends of a playground see-saw ) . The subsea link should be two way importing and exporting power, this is probably already designed to support some holiday makers and the regular residents say enough for 600 to 1000 people. . Like any urban setting a large proportion of electrical energy is used for hot water and for house heating and cooling. These loads can be controlled to make use of the variable energy supply. What remains then to supply stability to this minigrid is battery and diesel backup. Home batteries would be a good source of energy storage, but to be cost effective these should be cycled on a daily basis. Not much good having the most expensive component of this minigrid sitting idle for much of the time. There remains then the last small component of supply and storage to take care of the more occasional gap between supply and demand. Dare I say this, but fossil fuel standby generators can fit that last small requirement very well. Cheap, reliable equipment, easily stored fuel. Rapid starting and stopping. Other options for seasonable variability would be containerised batteries that could be deployed to the island when needed and then redeployed elsewhere when not required. Flow batteries with large electrolyte storage tanks can be suitable for medium term variability. The most expensive component of the flow battery would be the electronics, the pumps and the reaction chamber. The tanks and electrolytes are relatively cheap.

    Throw in some accurate numbers for the parameters of this engineering design project with the specifications and costs and you will have a very cost effective and environmentally friendly solution. This could be another very nice undergraduate energy project.

    • Ian f 3 years ago

      Hey, any ideas what type of battery they are using? From the article it appears that individual home based batteries will be used rather than a large VRFB. Is reposit also taking part in the “experiment”?

      • Ian f 3 years ago

        Found the govt preposal. Reposit is taking part, aparently. All info regarding batteries is redacted.

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