Alice Springs sign, Northern Territory

Alice Springs has been selected to test the economic and energy efficiency of a new Virtual Power Plant (VPP) – a collection of solar and battery storage systems that uses smart technology to control energy flow to and from power grids.

The trial will provide data and learning to:

  • Inform how small scale generation can reliably and securely contribute energy into the electricity system to meet security and network needs
  • Assist in meeting peak electricity demand when needed through the coordinated dispatch of stored solar energy
  • Support consideration of a framework to unlock value for customers from their solar/battery systems

About 50 participants are involved in the trial, most of whom are residential energy customers with rooftop solar PV and a solar battery.

The Solar Connect VPP is just one of a series of trials, models and investigations that form Alice Springs Future Grid – a whole-of-system project considering how Alice Springs can achieve 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

It is hoped that, upon the trial’s completion, smart technology that controls energy flow on power grids could soon be the norm in the Northern Territory, with the Territory Government ramping up plans for a renewable energy future.

Northern Territory Minister for Renewables and Energy, Selena Uibo, said the VPP will help stabilise the power grid and reduce household dependence on energy from centralised electricity generators.

“We know lessons learnt through this project will help inform our future electricity system plans and it is encouraging to see Alice Springs locals contributing to this bank of knowledge through their participation in this innovative trial.”

Delivery of the Future Grid project is coordinated by Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) which is working with a range of industry groups to deliver the VPP trial.

These include Alice Springs-based technical consultancy firm Ekistica, the Arid Lands Environment Centre, Jacana Energy, and Power and Water Corporation which has integrated the VPP into its electricity system. 

SwitchDin has provided technology that links solar and battery systems across the town to create the VPP.

Northern Territory’s Minister for Desert Knowledge Australia, Chansey Paech, said “One of Desert Knowledge Australia’s key focus areas is to help achieve the Territory’s renewable energy targets.

“Local participation in the VPP trial gives residents a sense of ownership and a stake in the development of the town’s clean energy future.”

Future Grid is supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Australian Government and the Territory Government. It is due to conclude next year, with findings to be included in the Roadmap to 2030 report.

Future Grid Project Director, Lyndon Frearson, said “In addition to Solar Connect demonstrating part of what a clean energy future might look like locally, industry from across Australia is keeping a close eye on what happens here on the Alice Springs grid.

“That’s because this small but complex electricity system represents something of a test bed for larger grids. It has characteristics of larger grids, but the effects of interventions – such as a VPP – are easier to see, making it quicker and easier to learn what works and what is less effective.”

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