What will be the world’s largest residential virtual power plant (VPP) has now been released by AGL Energy Limited (AGL).

Batteries installed in homes throughout Adelaide are now orchestrated to simultaneously aggregate the battery discharge via smart software in a cloud-based platform, giving critical mass to the VPP generation capabilities.

The Australian Government, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), is providing up to $5 million funding to support the $20 million project, as part of ARENA’s ongoing efforts to accelerate Australia’s shift to renewable energy.

Managing Director and CEO of AGL, Andy Vesey, said the 5MW peaking capacity of the VPP can help with security of supply and help customers to save on their energy bill.

“Our South Australian VPP demonstration is a practical example of the new energy future. We’re excited Australia’s largest operating residential VPP is ‘now live’ and the sixty plus batteries in homes across Adelaide are now linked by the smart software in our partner, Sunverge’s, cloud-based platform.

“This shows it can be done and done successfully. What we are currently seeing is the ability to simultaneously aggregate the battery discharge, which is a necessary step towards full orchestration capability.”

Mr Vesey said, “This also demonstrates the capability of the VPP to provide grid support services, including peak demand management and frequency control services, and we’ll share these results in our first public report in May this year.

“We believe the VPP will deliver benefits for multiple groups including for customers by reducing their energy bills, the network by lowering required capital investment to upgrade infrastructure, for AGL by providing another source of generation to deploy into the network with the balance used in our portfolio, and the environment through reduced emissions.”

AGL estimates customers in the VPP trial will save around $500 per year on their energy bill. This is in addition to participants having received a battery which was heavily subsidised by AGL.

The demonstration is also proving the value of batteries in the energy transition – offering an alternative capacity to thermal plants as they phase out, enabling high penetration of renewables in the SA grid by allowing intermittent renewable energy to be used when it’s needed, rather than when it’s produced.

ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, said that by supporting early-movers like AGL and Sunverge, ARENA is fast-tracking the development of new Australian industries such as the growing battery storage sector.

“This world leading project shows Australia is at the forefront of renewable energy innovation and is actively pursuing solutions for a smooth transition to a renewable energy future with ARENA’s support,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“This trial will pave the way for more virtual power plants to be added to our networks, increasing energy security and reliability by enabling networks to capture, store and deliver solar direct from customers’ roofs, rather than relying solely on grid infrastructure.

So far, the SA VPP has produced more than 300kW of battery capacity, with more than 200kW of associated solar capacity. This means it has a peak output of more than half a megawatt. And the VPP has stored and delivered more than 10,000kWh to date.

“A key point to remember is that while individual customers benefit, their participation can benefit their collective community, by using the stored energy in their battery rather than drawing from the grid, which supports their local network and community,” said Mr Vesey.

It is anticipated installation of all 1,000 batteries will be completed by the second half of 2018.

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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