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Australia uses pole-mounted storage to support consumer PV adoption

Australian utility United Energy will be testing the use of pole-mounted battery energy storage systems to encourage the adoption of consumer rooftop solar PV systems and their use to stabilise the grid.

The utility will deploy the AUS$10.98 million (US$7.8 million) Electric Avenue programme across its distribution network in South Eastern Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula over the next 18 months. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is providing AUS$4 million (US$2.8 million) for the project.

Forty 30KW batteries will be installed to store energy generated from consumer rooftop solar PV systems to provide demand management services and to increase the hosting capacity for solar PVs.

United Energy will use the stored electricity during times when energy demand is high. Each battery will serve up to 75 homes whilst the entire system will store the electricity needed to support 3,000 households, according to United Energy.

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The batteries will be manufactured locally by Thycon in Melbourne.

During times when United Energy’s grid is stable and does not need support from the virtual power plant (VPP), Australian energy retailer Simply Energy will borrow the services of the VPP for the reliability of its distribution system.

The decision to deploy the project follows a successful pilot in early 2020 which saw some two batteries being tested in Melbourne. The development highlights the increasing importance of energy storage in helping utilities to increase their portfolio of flexible and renewable energy to meet decarbonisation goals. The pilot also highlights the role consumers can play in speeding up the energy transition.

Commenting on the launch of Australia’s largest community battery rollout, United Energy General Manager Electricity Networks, Mark Clarke, said: “It is a great way of ensuring solar PV exports from homes in the community are consumed locally. From a network perspective, it also helps defer traditional investment so can save money for
customers on future network tariffs.”

ARENA CEO Darren Miller, adds: “As more and more renewable generation comes online, it’s crucial to address the challenges of a changing energy mix and build the grid of the future. We’re excited to see United Energy trial a novel approach to battery storage that provides benefits to current and future solar customers and reduces network costs, while also increasing the level of dispatchable generation in the power system.

United Energy provides services to 660,000 customers across Melbourne’s East, South East and the Mornington Peninsula.