Bruny Island trials “electricity grid of the future”

The Chester/Kobylec north-facing residence in Bruny Island’s picturesque and popular Adventure Bay is a year-round sun trap and ideal for solar energy generation.
Photo credits: Jonathan Jones

Eleven of 35 planned solar-powered battery systems installed in private homes across Tasmania’s Bruny Island as part of special trial are already significantly contributing to the island’s electricity grid.
Given the popular holiday island’s cable constraints and variable holiday power load, TasNetworks has been using a diesel generator to support peak power loads since 2012.
However, on a recent July weekend the diesel generator was used for just a few hours on Saturday morning before the island’s excess power needs were supplied for the rest of the weekend by the 11 batteries on the new customer battery grid.
TasNetworks Innovation Engineer Derek Jones said that without the battery contributions to the grid over that weekend and at other peak times, the generator would have had been busier.
“Even during the Sunday morning peak the batteries did the job and as bonus, the battery customers were able to use their backup systems during a brief outage,” Derek said.
“We’ve had some load issues on the island in recent times necessitating the use of the generator but since the batteries have come on stream we’ve been able to more efficiently manage the loads.
“In total, we asked our battery customers for around 275kWh of support over three events between Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon”.
TasNetworks and its partners commenced the CONSORT Bruny Island Battery Trial in April 2016.
These batteries were first employed over the traditionally busy Easter period in April 2017. The 3 batteries installed then performed well in reducing the island load. At that time, however, there were not enough batteries installed to avoid use of the diesel.
Bruny Island was selected for the CONSORT project because of its unique combination of network limitations and a customer desire to take charge of energy use.
The new battery technology, using Reposit’s ground-breaking energy management software, enables Bruny homeowners using the new battery systems to sell power back to the grid.
TasNetworks Innovation Team Leader and CONSORT project member Andrew Fraser says the trial is a practical collaboration with customers, who can generate and store energy for their own use and be paid to support the network at peak times.
“We are predicting that the 11 batteries currently operating on the island would store and make available about 800kWh of energy over a long weekend – about the same amount of energy the average-sized household uses in a month.
“The intention is for up to 35 batteries to be eventually operating across the island, contributing to the grid and providing significant benefits to the Bruny Island community by substantially reducing reliance on diesel generators.”
CONSORT is a collaborative research project involving The Australia National University (ANU) , The University of Sydney, University of Tasmania (UTAS), battery control software business Reposit Power, TasNetworks, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which provided $2.9m towards the $8m, three-year project.
As part of the project, UTAS researchers will assess how participating battery owners interact with the new technology.
UTAS Associate Professor Heather Lovell says CONSORT incorporates social science research, which will be important in enabling UTAS to establish whether new technical solutions really work for the battery system owners using them.
“CONSORT is aiming to demonstrate how networks and battery system owners can solve network constraints, enable more renewables and be fairly rewarded,” Prof Lovell said.
Andrew Fraser says that CONSORT expects more widespread deployment of this new technology.
“In future we anticipate this solution will carry over to other types of customer systems including electric vehicles, hot water heating and smart appliances.”
CONSORT project leader Professor Sylvie Thiebaux from ANU says the Bruny Island Battery Trial is part of a larger project investigating new ways of allowing battery owners and network providers –such as TasNetworks – to work together to improve the reliability of the electricity grid and enable more customer use of renewable-energy sources.
“In essence, we’re trialling the electricity grid of the future,” she said.
David Rose is Communications Advisor at TasNetworks

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