Powercor is rolling out an intensive program of works which is set to benefit an estimated 50,000 solar customers in western Victoria.

Targeting areas with high levels of rooftop solar penetration, the Solar Hotspots Program will improve export capacity and reduce tripping of solar systems that can otherwise be caused by voltage issues when excess solar is exported into the electricity network.

In addition, scoping and preparation work is also underway to improve export capacity for thousands more customers within the CitiPower network over the next six months.

Powercor General Manager Electricity Networks, Mark Clarke, said in the past 18 months, the rate of new applications for solar connections in Powercor has more than doubled resulting in 21 per cent of customers now generating a total of 580MW of electricity, while in CitiPower five per cent of customers are generating 50MW of electricity.

“In the hotspot areas, greater than one in three homes have solar connected so our program of works is important to helping these customers make the most of their investment,” Mr Clarke said.

“We recognise the future of energy is being driven by customer choices and we have a big role in enabling them.”

Between March and June 2021, dedicated field crews will be working on up to 30 locations a week to increase power network capacity in Ballarat, Bendigo and Portland as well as the precinct between Sunshine and Point Cook in Melbourne’s western suburbs. 

In the CitiPower network, work will be conducted over the next six months across Melbourne’s inner suburbs, including Northcote, Brunswick, Fitzroy, Kew and Camberwell.

This includes working on the poles and wires to make sure the voltage is well balanced across all powerlines and changing the settings on major transformers in zone substations to reduce the overall voltage levels.

In association with this work, CitiPower and Powercor have also reviewed the technical assessment used to guide export agreements with customers. This has been updated to take into consideration all network upgrades and aims to enable at least 80 per cent of new solar export applications to export 5kW.

Mr Clarke said that by July, an estimated 50,000 current or potential solar customers within the Powercor hotspot areas will benefit from being able to export more. Powercor will invite some currently constrained solar customers to apply for a new export agreement.

“We do not prevent customers from installing rooftop solar but we have a responsibility to all our customers to make sure any excess electricity is safely exported into the network,” Mr Clarke said.

Solar exports can affect the quality of power supplied by electricity networks because by injecting electricity, they impact on voltage. This potentially impacts other customers including those without solar.

During the solar hotspot programs, some customers may experience planned outages to allow crews to safely conduct their work. Powercor said it will directly notify customers well in advance of any planned outages.

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