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In a world-first trial, SA Power Networks is launching a new smart Flexible Exports option, which will double the amount of solar power South Australian households are able to export into the state grid.

The new option enables new solar customers in parts of Adelaide’s southern suburbs to export up to 10kW per phase from their panels, double the current standard export limit. 

Flexible Exports will be made available from 23 September 2021 in a trial funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). 

Project partners have spent the past nine months developing the necessary technology to enable dynamic management of solar export limits, which will see export limits automatically update throughout the day to reflect the export capacity of the local network. 

The introduction of Flexible Exports is being prioritised as an alternative to lower fixed export limits in congested areas of the network. 

Initially, these will be areas served by the Sheidow Park substation, including parts of Hallett Cove, Sheidow Park, Trott Park, Reynella, Old Reynella, Reynella East, O’Halloran Hill and Happy Valley. 

From 23 September, households serviced by the Sheidow Park substation who want to connect or upgrade solar will be offered the choice of a fixed 1.5kW limit or a flexible export limit up to 10kW.

The proposal does not affect existing solar customers, or those connecting or upgrading systems in other parts of the network that are not congested – they will remain on their current limit of 5kW per phase. 

More than 46 per cent of households in the area have solar and the local network is reaching its limit to support more solar connections at the current fixed export limit of 5kW. However, the network is only congested at rare times (e.g. mild sunny days in spring). 

Flexible export limits offered under the trial will enable more customers to connect solar and also provide greater solar export opportunities throughout the year.

SA Power General Manager Strategy and Transformation, Mark Vincent, said, “We are in the early stages of this new technology, and Flexible Exports is a world-first that will help us accommodate more solar on our network.

“Based on network conditions experienced over the past 12 months, the flexible option would allow customers the opportunity to export 10kW for 98 per cent of the time.

“We expect that once we have proven the technology and assessed the customer experience that this will become a standard offer for new solar customers in South Australia from mid-2022.

“It is part of our plan to double the amount of solar that we can accommodate on our network by 2025.”

Energy Networks Australia Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Dillon, said the project had far-reaching implications for the future of solar energy. 

“This is the future a smarter, more flexible power system,” Mr Dillon said.

“Until now, the problem has been that in order to manage voltage and stability issues that occur only some of the time, networks around the country have had to impose export limits that apply all the time.

“The South Australia trial will have implications not only for the rest of Australia, but internationally.”

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