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

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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.

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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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