How Australia's rooftop solar boom can be good news for the grid | RenewEconomy

How Australia’s rooftop solar boom can be good news for the grid

Rooftop solar has unveiled voltage issues in the grid, but is not necessarily the cause. A new study shows how it can help address these voltage issues.


One Step Off The Grid

A new study has demonstrated the key role that distributed solar and storage could play in managing the shift to renewables, transforming Australia’s world-leading uptake of rooftop PV into a major asset to networks, rather than the liability it is often portrayed.

The $5 million ARENA-backed Networks Renewed project, led by the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, teamed energy network incumbents with tech innovators to find distributed energy solutions to network side problems.

The trial was conducted in Collombatti and Bellingen in regional NSW, and Yackandandah in regional Victoria – an area of “network constraint” in the state where a group of 90 homeowners with solar have been given subsidised battery storage, inverters and smart gateways.

What they found was that both solar and batteries can support network voltage – which translates into a success, the report notes, that opens the door to a suite of new business opportunities “based on the premise that rooftop solar can be an asset to everyone.”

It also means that the solar PV hosting capacity of Australia’s networks could be increased, allowing more opportunities for homeowners with solar systems to export energy to the grid and be paid for doing so.

These are important findings for a number of reasons, not least of all to counter the proliferation of mainstream news reports that cast Australia’s booming uptake of rooftop solar as a thorn in the side of networks.

As UTS research author Dani Alexander explained to RenewEconomy on Monday, this is not strictly accurate.

“Coming into this project we were quite clear that solar was not the cause of all voltage problems, but rather, solar was just unveiling existing voltage problems.

“We need to be very clear – it’s not about [rooftop solar and batteries] solving the problems they’re causing, but it’s being a part of the solution to a broader problem.

“We wanted to show that distributed solar is the tip of the iceberg, and underneath there are all of these unseen opportunities that we should be able to tap into if we can show that they work.”

And show this, they did.

To read the full story on RenewEconomy sister site One Step Off The Grid, click here…

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  1. Connor 11 months ago

    Horizon power has been very busy doing similar stuff in their regional grids from what I understand. Esperance recently had 2MW of solar capacity added due to advancements in grid management.

  2. Ian 11 months ago

    Teamwork is good, as long as the team players own the team and benefit from it’s Goals. One way to prevent technology developed in Our country from taking flight and becoming owned by foreign interests is to distribute it and possibly open source it. What do others think?

    Obviously highly distributed generation and storage, from multiple different sized players entering the grid, as we have with our rooftop boom, is now a fact of life. This needs to be managed and directed, gathered, and redistributed, payments need to be made from consumers to generators
    and to distributors, and managers

    How to do all this is the interesting part and it seems these studies are doing a great job.

    What are the ways to aggregate DER from multiple sites into the grid?

    Here is a list:
    1. VPP
    2. Centralised grid and energy retailers:fixed FiTs and tariffs just as we now have.
    3. Suburb or location-wide minigrid
    3.1 owned by energy retailer
    3.2 owned by the community
    4. Off-griddism
    4.1 without BEV to household capability
    4.2 with BEV to household capability
    5. Gridtied imports/zero exports
    6. Virtual private network ie from solargarden to house or factory using the grid
    7. Dual or multiple connections at a single site with different connection contracts.

    Others might like to add some more possibilities. There is no reason why all these possibilities cannot exist at the same time for different circumstances.

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