Major upgrades supporting solar exports for Victorian homes

Powercor worker in hardhat works on powerlines from crane (upgrades)
Image: Powercor

More rooftop solar power is being shared between homes and businesses across western Victoria than ever before following major upgrades by electricity distributor Powercor.

The number of households with rooftop solar increased by 16 per cent in 2021 to 175,000 in the Powercor region. Since June, greater than 90 per cent of these new connections have been able to export excess solar into the Powercor network.

These results were supported by extensive upgrades conducted by Powercor to increase network capacity. Since October, Powercor crews have conducted more than 700 individual items of work on 53 zone substation supply areas and other electrical infrastructure across all parts of its network, including Geelong, Mildura, Cobram, Bendigo, Hamilton, Koroit, Ballarat, Horsham, Shepparton, Warrnambool and surrounding areas.

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It builds on targeted upgrades conducted last year in 11 ‘solar hotspot’ areas, including Ballarat, Bendigo, Bacchus Marsh, Portland, Maryborough and several areas in Melbourne’s west.

Combined, the major upgrades have increased capacity on the network, allowing more households to export excess power generated by their solar panels back into the network. Powercor now approves more than 90 per cent of applications from customers seeking to export excess solar onto the network—up from 60 per cent in some areas back in February 2021.

CitiPower and Powercor general manager electricity networks Mark Clarke said the works were an example of the transition networks are making to become distribution system operators—enabling current technologies like rooftop solar and paving the way for electric vehicles, virtual power plants and more into the future.

“We’re working to build a crucial gateway to a clean energy future by providing seamless access to our networks and new value for all customers,” Clarke said.

“These solar enablement works allow our customers to export their excess solar, while also supporting Victoria to reduce emissions and increase the use of clean energy generated by customers at home.”

Across the Powercor network, more than 23 per cent of customers have a solar system installed on their properties. This increased by more than 23,500 customers during 2021, and combined they are now generating over 700MW—larger than any gas-fired power station, coal-fired generation unit, wind farm or solar farm in Victoria.

Some of Victoria’s suburbs with the highest concentration of rooftop solar are located within Powercor’s network. These include Tarneit, Point Cook and Truganina, where more than 40% of households have rooftop solar.

The solar enablement work is part of CitiPower and Powercor’s Future Networks program, designed to enable more customers to connect solar, electric vehicles and battery storage, which incorporates a dedicated solar enablement initiative and the expansion of the network’s digital capability to facilitate a variety of choices for customers.

The work also paves the way for the networks to roll out an advanced Dynamic Voltage Management System (DVMS) later this year, allowing network controllers to better manage voltage levels across the network.

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Powercor is now including solar enablement work as part of normal business operations, supporting high numbers of customers to export excess solar into the grid no matter where they live.

“These works are now business-as-usual for our teams who always have a strong focus on supporting our customers get the most out of their energy investments such as solar,” Clarke said.

Solar customers who currently have a limit on the amount they can export are invited to contact Powercor to reapply for an export agreement based on the greater capacity now available on the network.

More information about the program is available here.

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