Suburban micro-grid development explored in ARENA-backed project

A Melbourne-based project that will investigate a model for shared solar and battery storage in suburban neighbourhood micro-grids is being backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The $225,800 project, headed up by Moreland Energy Foundation Limited (MEFL), will get $112,400 in support from ARENA to look at how communities can draw on renewables and energy storage for cheaper power and greater control over their energy.
MEFL – the group behind the Darebin Solar Savers project in Melbourne that put rooftop solar on the houses of 300 pensioners, who then pay back the cost of the system through their council rates – will team up with GreenSync and Jemena to undertake a virtual trial based on historical power consumption data from medium-density Melbourne suburbs.
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They will examine how PV and storage systems could provide ‘behind the meter’ power needs of users and potentially show how networks could be used differently to allow more grid-connected solar.
“Although record numbers of Australian households already have rooftop solar systems, there is a limit on how much grid-connected solar PV individual households can install and how much solar power they can generate,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.
“This is because our networks were designed to facilitate power flowing in one direction – from the grid to customers – and the system can run into technical problems if too much solar power is fed back into the grid at any one time.
“Pooling solar PV generation and storage across a number of households using a neighbourhood ‘micro-grid’ could address certain challenges and allow residential customers to generate, store and use more of their own solar PV.
Frischknecht says that as well as investigating better ways to manage renewables integration and two-way grid traffic, ARENA is supporting projects like this one to explore the logistical, regulatory and financial challenges involved in adopting micro-grids in existing suburbs.
“Micro-grids could enable more solar energy to be shared between neighbours at peak times when grid power is most expensive, increasing the value to participating residences,” he said.
“In addition, the ability to reduce peak demand through such a system could actively assist network utilities to manage challenging periods of variable power production and overall activity on the grid.”
The results of the project are due in May 2016.

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