Origin Energy has revealed plans to establish what it says will be Victoria’s largest virtual power plant – a $20 million cloud-based platform that will tap around 5MW of the battery-stored solar power of up to 650 customers during periods of peak power demand.
The $20 million project has the backing of the state Labor government, with $4.5 million in funding announced on Wednesday, as part of its broader investment in microgrid technology in the state.
The VPP will work by establishing a network of yet-to-be selected residential and commercial solar customers – who will get discounted batteries as part of the deal.
Origin will then use this network of up to 5MW as part of its wholesale generation portfolio, trading it into the National Electricity Market to boost grid stability, reduce grid costs and push down power prices.
It does all this by reducing peak demand on the electricity network – and therefore cutting the need to add more poles and wires and other costly infrastructure – while at the same time helping customers to get the most from their stored, self-generated rooftop solar.
“We’re the leading supplier of solar systems to residential and business customers, were among the first to retail battery storage in Australia and have been leading the way in the identification and trialing of cutting edge demand management platforms,” said Origin’s executive general manager of retail, Jon Briskin.
“The development of a virtual power plant brings together several initiatives Origin has been trialing to help customers embrace the benefits of distributed and decentralised energy.”
Indeed, as we reported here last month, Origin does currently hold the position as one of the biggest installers of rooftop solar in Australia – it is the biggest player in the national commercial solar market.
However, that did not stop CEO Frank Calabria from declaring his support for the ACCC recommendation to abolish the federal small-scale renewable energy scheme ahead of its scheduled end date.
Nonetheless, it makes Origin an obvious choice for the latest Andrews government grant, delivered through its Microgrid Demonstration Initiative grant program.
All up, that program – which aims to boost energy security, sustainability and cost savings in the network – is providing $10 million across eight state-wide microgrid projects totalling more than $37 million in value.
Other recent projects to win backing include a renewables based microgrid project in the Latrobe Valley – a region best known for being Victoria’s centre for coal-fired power generation.
“We’re investing in new technologies that will help create jobs, attract investment in renewable energy and bring down power prices,” said state energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio in comments on Wednesday.
“We’re ensuring Victoria’s energy system is affordable, resilient and secure, as we transition to the next generation of energy technologies.”
Information on how Victorian customers can participate in the virtual power plant initiative will be available later this year.