United Energy supercharges solar exports

United Energy crew performs linework using crane lift (pole)
Image: United Energy

More rooftop solar power will be able to be shared between homes and businesses as part of United Energy’s major investment in its low-voltage electricity network across Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula.

The program will support the rise in rooftop solar installations by improving voltages and increasing the hosting capacity across the network to allow more solar to be exported back into the grid.

United Energy crews will complete over 500 individual items of work across 85 post codes, providing benefits for more than 40,000 homes and businesses.

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The work is critical to maintaining voltage levels on the network through Victoria’s clean energy transition.

United Energy general manager electricity networks Mark Clarke said the upgrade program was an example of how United Energy was proactively supporting customers to get the most out of their solar as part of the network’s role as a distribution system operator (DSO).

“We’re seeing solar grow in popularity and with electricity costs continuing to rise, more households will be looking at ways to take control of their bills by investing in rooftop systems,” he said.

“This work is about making sure our network is supporting our customers now and into the future invest in clean energy technology that will reduce carbon emissions.”

The number of households with rooftop solar increased by 15 per cent in United Energy’s network last year, with over 103,000 customers now having solar. A further 4,100 rooftop solar systems have been added to homes in the first five months of 2022. Rooftop solar capacity in the United Energy network now exceeds 550MW—more than Victoria’s largest gas-fired power generator.

Rooftop solar systems can create challenges for networks as they can push up voltage levels in the system.

Similar to how water flows downhill, electricity flows from high voltage to low voltage. To enable solar panels to send excess power to other parts of the network, a solar system’s inverter needs to raise the voltage slightly to allow the electricity to flow out.

Networks like United Energy are required to deliver electricity to homes and businesses within a range of 216 and 253V. If voltage is too high, customers may use more power than necessary, and potentially damage some appliances. If voltage is too low, customers may experience flickering lights and generally poor power quality.

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“Our network is a critical gateway to Victoria’s energy future and managing rooftop solar and the impacts they can have on voltage levels is part of what we do every day,” Clarke said.

“Whether it’s through upgrading our network or using smart technology to dynamically raise and lower voltages in real time across our network, we are optimally placed to continue supporting Victoria’s growth in consumer energy resources such as solar.”

United Energy is further supporting solar installations by rolling out 40 innovative pole-top batteries in an Australia-first, with each battery capable of soaking up solar during the day and supporting entire neighbourhoods during peak times.

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