Canberra to host distributed energy test lab, to fast-track a smarter grid

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Distributed Energy Resources Lab at ANU to model devices including home batteries, rooftop solar, inverters, and controllable loads for industry and researchers.

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ITP Renewables in conjunction with the Australian National University (ANU), UNSW Canberra, Evoenergy and the ACT government have announced the construction of a new lab to facilitate rapid prototyping and testing of different combinations of new control, monitoring and communication systems for use with distributed energy and storage solutions, at the ANU’s Acton campus in Canberra.

As widely reported in RenewEconomy, a large number of consumer-side, network and market trials of distributed energy resources (DERs) have taken place or are underway in Australia. The vast majority of these trials are being conducted bilaterally – with a single product or service provider and a single Distribution Network Service Provider (DNSP).

While these trials are important, they commonly involve bespoke products or services being integrated into one specific DNSP’s control system with one DER type.

This can limit scalability to new services and markets, as real-world environments where customers may choose multiple types of DER controllers or where service providers are operating simultaneously on different platforms, are not being simulated.

In order to unlock the full potential of DERs, and thus provide the best value to consumers, it is important to develop these new systems as efficiently as possible and coordinate them such that services are complementary when scaled. It is also crucial that these systems be tested and validated in a trusted manner.

The DER-Lab will make it quicker for new product and service developers to get their ideas ready for market, and provide a space to test the communications and control interface between these technologies.

Once built, the new Distributed Energy Resource (DER) test laboratory “DER-Lab” will be housed at the ANU which is within the Evoenergy distribution network. The Lab will model a small and reconfigurable distribution network where an array of DER devices such as residential batteries, solar PV systems, inverters, and real and simulated controllable electrical loads will be available to industry and researchers.

The DER-Lab will allow for safe testing of new technologies such as monitoring and communication devices, smart controllers, aggregation (e.g. Virtual Power Plant) and market participation software and other innovative new products under development, in a multi-platform environment that simulates real-world conditions prior to roll-out.

The aim is to develop protocols for multi-technology solutions to avoid early technology lock-in and maximise the number of products which can be used across Australian networks.

The DER-Lab will build on ITP Renewable’s leading expertise in design, construction and operation of Batt-Lab, an independent battery performance testing facility located at CIT Bruce in Canberra.

The world-class facility will be an open-access facility for third party hardware/software developers, universities, and network and market operators to troubleshoot the interconnectivity and communications of technologies that monitor, control and coordinate distributed electrical generation, storage and demand response assets.

The DER-Lab has been made possible by the investment of $1.5 million from the ACT Governmentthrough theirPriority Investment Program. The facility continues the ACT leadership in the renewable energy sector and will become the national focal point for the ecosystem of DER developers, researchers, and utilities.

The construction of the facility is planned for completion by Q2 2020.

To express your interest in the DER-Lab, including have your products tested or available for third party testing, please visit www.DER-lab.net.au

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