Ausgrid has begun making preparations to take some customers off the main grid, putting out a call for expressions of interest from suppliers of stand alone power systems (SAPS) based around solar and battery storage.
The Ausgrid tender is expected to be one of many by networks across Australia as they take advantage of new rules that encourage them to take remote and regional customers off the grid if cost savings and improved reliability can be demonstrated.
Networks have long known that many of their remote customers can be incredibly expensive to serve, because of the cost of building and maintaining poles and wires over long distances, particularly managing vegetation, fire and storm risks.
The high cost of these connections is shared with all customers, so replacing them with smarter, renewable based systems will lower costs for everyone.
There are potentially tens of thousands of individual customers, and even some small or medium sized communities, who could be better served with stand alone power systems or micro-grids, and Western Power is leading the way in W.A. by cutting the wires to more than 100 customers, and more than 200kms of line. (See picture above).
Ausgrid says it is focused initially on up to ten customers in the first of a series of trials. They will be located in its regional areas, such as the Upper Hunter, Singleton, Cessnock, and the Central Coast, and even parts of the Hornsby and Sutherland shires in the greater Sydney metropolitan region.
In its tender documents, it says the SAPS should be able to deliver for customers using an average of 10kWh to 90kWh a day with systems based around solar and battery storage. Diesel back up generators will also be included, but the systems must be designed to ensure that these diesel generators do not run for more than 100 hours a year.
It cited one case study – a rural residential property located down “several kilometres of graded dirt road”, some 90 minutes from Muswellbrook in the upper Hunter – with electric hot water and a septic system. The trial is expected to begin next year.