Battery technology to improve quality of supply in rural areas

New technology trialled on the Atherton Tablelands could change the way rural electricity supply networks power Australian homes.

Queensland Government-owned distributor Ergon Energy has been working with customers to test new battery and control technology, which connects directly to its electricity network, known as the Grid Utility Support System (GUSS).

Ergon called for tenders in September to build multiple GUSS units, with the state’s Energy Minister Mark McArdle stating it is an innovative concept with great potential.

“GUSS is an exceptional concept that works by charging batteries overnight when electricity use is at its lowest and discharging them during the day when energy use peaks,” he said.

“The primary purpose is to improve the quality of supply while reducing investment and operating costs on Ergon’s extensive rural electricity networks.”

The GUSS units that were trialled successfully near Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands have been relocated to a section of network near the small township of Laura, in Queensland’s Far North. Ergon hopes the units will help more than 26,000 customers in regional Queensland who operate on single wire earth return (SWER) lines.

Mr McArdle said electricity demand had increased as customers lifestyles improved, placing strain on the capacity these networks could deliver during peak times.

“GUSS will offset these peaks, if stored energy could be fed back into the network this could mean less investment needed on infrastructure and therefore lower costs,” he said.

Ergon chief executive Ian McLeod said GUSS units would be deployed in the next two years, delivering significant savings on remote networks as well as better reliability and significant future applications.

“We are learning new things from what GUSS units do in combining stored energy (battery power) with our network,” Mr McLeod said.

“These trials are already attracting attention from other electricity utilities in Australia. We began developing this capability in 2010; consequently we are a long way ahead of many other utilities in making this solution a reality on the electricity network.