New rooftop solar “urban power stations” to play both sides of the meter

New technology that promises to unlock “tens of gigawatts” of potential for solar on Australia’s industrial rooftops has won the backing of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

ARENA said on Wednesday that it had allocated $497,000 in funding for commercial solar specialist Epho towards the design and construction of a 1.7MW industrial rooftop solar system to demonstrate its ‘Bright Thinkers Power Station’ concept.

The concept aims to use “switching technology” developed in collaboration with Siemens to dynamically distribute the output of a solar system between the consumer on site, or the network at wholesale electricity prices – or a bit of both.

The demonstration urban power station, on which work has already started, is being installed at Goodman’s Oakdale Industrial Estate in Horsley Park, in Sydney’s west.

According to Epho it will occupy the roof of a 31,457 square metres new warehouse, which is dedicated specifically to healthcare products storage and distribution and will commence operations at the end of this year.

“Epho developed the BTPS concept to allow large roof-top solar systems to be connected both behind-the-meter as well as an independent, market registered power station,” said the company’s managing director, Oliver Hartley.

“Epho’s innovation potentially allows the entire roof area to be utilised and that the roof can be turned into market participating urban power station.”

The company believes the technology will be the key to unlock “tens of gigawatt” potential for solar on industrial roofs, while facilitating a “low-risk win/win/win situation between the customer, the landlord and the solar asset developer.”

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said another potential advantage of the project would be to allow for more “smart” rooftop solar capacity to be installed on increasingly congested grids.

“The project will unlock further investment and installation of solar PV on the entire usable roof space of commercial and industrial buildings,” Miller said.

“This compares to the present practice where current rooftop solar PV systems are constrained in size to align with tenant demand.

“ARENA supports the companies and institutions that are building our future energy system and this unique take on rooftop solar will help ensure that we are furthering our priority in integrating renewable electricity into the grid,” he said.

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