Adelaide residents to trial flexible export limits

Solar panels on rooftops in Adelaide (flexible export)
Image: Shutterstock

Residents in parts of Adelaide’s southern suburbs will be the first to participate in a world-leading trial of flexible export limits, which will maximise the solar export opportunity for South Australian households.

The smart “Flexible Exports” option from electricity distributor SA Power Networks, enables new solar customers to export up to 10kW per phase from their panels, double the current standard export limit.

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Flexible Exports will be made available from September 23 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, this 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 September 23, 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.

“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,” said Mark Vincent, general manager of strategy and transformation at SA Power Networks.

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“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,” Vincent said.

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