SA Power Networks is upgrading voltage management systems across the state’s electricity distribution network to facilitate more solar generation. 

About 140 major substations supporting approximately 790,000 of South Australia’s 900,000 electricity customers, will be upgraded.

South Australia has more than 270,000 customers with solar systems capable of generating about 1,500MW of energy – the equivalent of several large coal or gas power stations.

SA Power Networks’ Manager Corporate Affairs, Paul Roberts, said, “We’re having to move quickly in balancing support for the fast-growing number of solar customers, with the need to support the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the SA Government on broader network security of supply issues.

“SA Power Networks, with welcome support from the State Government, is investing in the rapid deployment of new voltage control measures in our larger substations.

“This will help us better regulate voltage levels throughout the day and year.

“So, during those periods of high solar export in the middle of the day, we can keep the volts down to ensure customers can continue to export their excess power to the grid.”

The voltage management upgrades have already been implemented at 40 sites, with the remaining 100 currently planned to be completed by early 2021.

Meanwhile, AEMO has raised concerns around the ability to manage system security in the event the interconnector to Victoria goes down, given the high volume of solar generation in the state.

This new voltage management capability provides SA Power Networks with the ability to assist AEMO in managing supply/load issues on Australia’s interconnected national grid.

“AEMO has said it may need us to help, as a last resort, in the unlikely scenario that the interconnector goes down on a few days of the year that we experience ‘minimum demand’,” Mr Roberts said. 

“We would do this by making small changes to voltage at targeted substations. Our trials have confirmed we can do this effectively and safely while maintaining ongoing electricity supply for customers.”

Mr Roberts emphasised the benefits for solar customers are significant, as more intelligent voltage management equipment will facilitate additional exports on other days.

“This is one of a number of initiatives we are implementing that will mean we can double the amount of renewable energy the electricity distribution network can accommodate by 2025.”

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