Shared solar and storage could deliver more for households

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $112,400 support for Moreland Energy Foundation Limited (MEFL) to investigate a model for shared solar PV generation and energy storage capacity in metropolitan suburbs.

MEFL and project partners GreenSync and Jemena will undertake a virtual trial based on historical power consumption data from medium-density Melbourne suburbs. They will examine how PV and storage systems could provide ‘behind the meter’ power needs of users and potentially show how networks could be used differently to allow more grid-connected solar.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project would look at how communities can draw on renewable energy and storage for cheaper power and greater control over their energy.

“Pooling solar PV generation and storage across a number of households using a neighbourhood ‘microgrid’ could address certain challenges and allow residential customers to generate, store and use more of their own solar PV,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Although record numbers of Australian households already have rooftop solar systems, there is a limit on how much grid-connected solar PV individual households can install and how much solar power they can generate.

“This is because our networks were designed to facilitate power flowing in one direction – from the grid to customers – and the system can run into technical problems if too much solar power is fed back into the grid at any one time.

“In addition to working with networks to look at ways to better manage the integration of renewable energy and two-way traffic, ARENA is supporting projects like this one to explore the logistical, regulatory and financial challenges involved in adopting microgrids in existing suburbs.”

Mr Frischknecht said adopting solar PV and battery storage at a community level can decrease installation and maintenance costs by leveraging the purchasing power of multiple residences.

“Microgrids could enable more solar energy to be shared between neighbours at peak times when grid power is most expensive, increasing the value to participating residences,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“In addition, the ability to reduce peak demand through such a system could actively assist network utilities to manage challenging periods of variable power production and overall activity on the grid.”

The results of the $225,800 project are due in May 2016.