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Western Australia has announced a new solution to increase network reliability and enable the future growth of rooftop solar panels. 

The energy collectively generated by residential solar panels in the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) is more than the amount generated by Western Australia’s largest power station.

This unmanaged energy puts residential power supply at risk on mild sunny days when rooftop solar generation is high and demand from the system is low.

From February 14, 2022, new or upgraded solar panels will be installed with the capability to be remotely turned off, for short periods, when demand for electricity reaches a critically low level.

Remotely switching off solar panels will be used as a last resort to prevent widespread power interruptions and is expected to occur a few times a year for a few hours. This won’t affect the resident’s power supply.

Power stations will be turned down first, with rooftop residential solar the last to be impacted.

The measure, which will not affect homes with existing solar panels, will allow the continued uptake of solar panels without increasing costs.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) welcomed the announcement, which supports its priority recommendation in the Renewables Integration Paper – SWIS Update, to help manage power system security and reliability during emergency operational conditions as a measure of last resort to prevent widespread power interruptions.

Total renewable generation is meeting up to 70 per cent of total energy demand in the SWIS, 64 per cent by rooftop solar, in particular time intervals. 

AEMO expects this to continue growing with installed rooftop solar capacity to virtually double in the next decade.

During daylight hours, with clear sky conditions, rooftop solar is the largest single generator in the SWIS. 

AEMO Executive General Manager in WA, Cameron Parrotte, said, “It is important to note that this measure is to be used as a backstop capability only.”

“AEMO has access to a range of tools to help us forecast future system conditions and manage challenging operational conditions, such as low load events. 

“These include reducing large-scale generation, procuring additional essential system services to ensure the system can be operated at a lower load level and coordinating with Western Power to manage voltages on the network.”

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