AusNet takes suburban street off-grid for almost 24 hours

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AusNet Services has, for the third time, taken part of a Melbourne street completely off grid – this time for 21 hours.

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Source: Green Energy Markets Renewable Energy Index – November 2017
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One Step Off The Grid

A ground-breaking mini-grid trial by Victorian network operator AusNet Services has, for the third time, taken part of a Melbourne street completely off grid – this time for a period of almost 22 hours.

In a project update posted last week, AusNet said the mini-grid, comprising 17 households on a suburban street in Mooroolbark, was “seamlessly” disconnected from the grid and, for 21 hours, powered only by the collective solar and battery storage systems installed on 14 of the homes.

The achievement is the latest for AusNet’s Mooroolbark Mini Grid Trial, which aims to demonstrate how utilities can harness concentrated pockets of distributed generation to help optimise the performance of the grid, while also delivering what customers need: a reliable, and cheaper, electricity supply.

In December, the utility managed to keep the 17-home mini-grid islanded for 9 hours running, improving on its first experiment, in May 2017, which successfully separated eight homes from the grid – two without solar and storage – before reintegrating them seamlessly.

The trial is based around what AusNet calls DENOP – a Distributed Energy Network Optimisation Platform – a cloud based software layer which operates in conjunction with a control platform to orchestrate the activities of the mini-grid’s distributed solar and storage resources.

Speaking at the ABB Customer World forum in Melbourne on Thursday, AusNet’s Alistair Parker said it was one of a “plethora” of technologies, and grid-based solutions, that would help deliver a National Electricity Network of 50 per cent renewables, and beyond.

“We have a really proven ability there to handle the technical aspects of stability in a mini-grid,” he said. “We’re also starting to play around with whether that can feed, for want of a better term, synthetic inertia, back into the system, and help with wider stability.”

Perhaps even more importantly, though, Parker said the Mooroolbark trial had laid down invaluable groundwork on successfully engaging with consumers, and communities, to solve energy problems.

“We switched (the mini-grid) off from the grid, seamlessly, and we saw how long it would run for,” said Parker, who is executive general manager of regulated energy services at the network.

“We had a bit of a book within the company, some bets on how long it would go,” Parker told the conference.

“We were hoping for 24 hours, we only go to 21 hours because, unfortunately, somebody came back from work to a very hot house, switched the air-con on, and that sort of ran through a bit more energy than were hoping.

“But I think that’s the reality, that these things have to fit in around people’s lives, not to make everybody into an energy expert,” he said.

“We can envisage a future where distribution networks actually help support the transmission network and support their own needs.”

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here.

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11 Comments
  1. Peter F 1 year ago

    One can deduce that another 5 kWh of batteries or perhaps 6-8 west facing solar panels across the 16 houses would have done the trick for 24 hours. Then a total of 20 extra panels and one extra Powerwall would probably push them out to a week

    • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

      Considering the rate at which the cost of solar panels and powerwalls is coming down, that extra yard will be a no-brainer in a years’ time.

  2. George Darroch 1 year ago

    ““We were hoping for 24 hours, we only go to 21 hours because, unfortunately, somebody came back from work to a very hot house, switched the air-con on, and that sort of ran through a bit more energy than were hoping.”

    We need to do more to fix the demand side of the equation, with better insulation, shading, and efficient appliances.

    • Russell 1 year ago

      Or they could have installed solar panels and set the AC to run when the sun shone. They would have come home to a comfortable house

      • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

        Probably better to insulate the house so as to not need to cool it nearly as much with power hungry appliances when no one’s at home, and then be able to pump most of the mid-week solar power into the battery.

      • Ian 1 year ago

        There should be a law stipulating that anyone installing air conditioning must have adequate insulation and shading installed 😊

    • Glynn Palmer 1 year ago

      There is existing technology that the distributor can send a signal to a receiver to reduce the maximum output. The signal receiver is the device that is installed on your PeakSmart air-conditioner so it can communicate with the network. During a PeakSmart event – that is, when the network is under stress due to peak demand – your air-conditioner will assist by capping energy consumption for short periods.

  3. phillyc 1 year ago

    Really exciting trial. It’s great to see they’ve got the people on board too. Mini grids are an excellent solution to energy generation and storage issues that different houses can have.

    • Ian 1 year ago

      A model for a street or suburb wide minigrid could include the following: 1Ownership of the substation and distribution system including street lights by the community served by that minigrid. 2. Aggregated solar and storage assets within that minigrid according to the choice of individual homes to export electricity at any given time. 3. Minigrid owned generating and storage assets on park shelters etc. 4. Storage assets to include fully integrated V2G community EV such as minibuses , and autonomous cars used for the suburb residents to connect with public transport nodes and shopping centres , sporting facilities etc.5. Real-time and automated negotiations between the minigrid and multiple network providers for the best input and export deals.

      The idea behind minigrid owned EV is to utilise the large storage capacity of EV at a price competitive to stationary batteries.

  4. Calamity_Jean 1 year ago

    More of this would make life safer in areas prone to bush fires. Since a significant cause of wildfire is blown-down power lines sparking, being able to cut off the central electric supply in fire weather would be helpful.

  5. Richard Laxton 1 year ago

    AusNet are a bunch of hypocrites. On one hand they have a ground-breaking mini-grid trial and on the other they are the slowest distributor to approve battery grid connections with an SLA of 65 days that they can’t even meet. Considering the fact that one of the primary reasons why I am installing a battery is that their grid is super unreliable, this is particularly galling.

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