WA’s first Virtual Power Plant activated during heatwave

Plico CEO Robbie Campbell (virtual power plant)
Plico CEO Robbie Campbell

With temperatures hovering between 35 to 39 degrees Celsius for the past couple of weeks, Western Australia has activated its first Virtual Power Plant (VPP) to prevent household blackouts.

Western Australian (WA) clean energy company Plico was officially notified last Monday morning by AEMO to provide additional megawatt capacity to the grid through hundreds of its customer solar and battery systems.  

This is WA’s first ever activated Virtual Power Plant where, using cutting-edge technology, all the systems will act as one giant battery to export energy to the grid during peak usage.

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More than half of Plico’s power storage capacity was dispatched between the hours of 5pm and 7pm to support the grid. This included more than 3MW in power exported directly to the grid.

Plico CEO Robbie Campbell said the clean energy provided to the grid was due to the combination of high temperatures, the expected high-power usage and existing low power reserves. 

“The Virtual Power Plant worked as it is designed to do, to provide additional power to offset the high household demand that would have otherwise strained the grid. We estimate that 3MW powers approximately 1,500 homes who may otherwise have suffered a blackout.

“This heatwave naturally challenges the power system, especially during periods of extended and extreme weather. To avoid power disruptions to homes during such events, we provide additional clean energy power to the grid to help deal with the extra demand and bump up the reserves.”

Plico assumed control of its customers’ batteries remotely and set them to store energy during the day. This enables the systems to export energy back to the grid later in the day when it’s needed. Plico batteries will then be set to discharge directly to the grid for a period of up to two hours, between 5pm and 9pm.

“To turn the heatwave into something good and provide clean energy back to the grid so houses don’t lose power, is why we exist. In a world where we demand action on climate change and being less reliant on fossil fuels, this is an opportunity to demonstrate the true power of a Virtual Power Plant all through WAs sunlight,” Campbell said.

The growing Plico Fleet currently has an aggregated battery of 10.5MWh and made as much of this capacity available to the WA grid. This is one of the most significant contributions ever made by an activated Virtual Power Plant aggregator (outside of trials) to the energy market across Australia.

Capacity in the WA grid is currently under pressure due to declining coal production and the temporary closure of some coal-fired power plants. At the start of summer, the State Government announced the possibility of importing coal to keep the power on.

AEMO identified a potential reserve shortfall in WA’s main power system over summer and has sought additional capacity from energy providers to cover this shortfall. Plico is contracted to provide additional capacity to the grid during emergency peak demand periods. 

“If an event occurs, we look after our Plico customers. We pay them double their cost for the energy stored in their battery, and for any energy they may have purchased from the grid during the activation. So, it’s a win for our forward-thinking customers, a win for the state, and our planet,” Campbell said.

“We’re not sure how many more activations will occur, but we are prepared for any emergency,” he added.

The Plico Virtual Power Plant is supported by Redback Technologies, creators of the innovative Smart Hybrid Inverter technology used in Plico systems, and Amp X, which provides its proprietary VPP digital energy platform to enable monitor, control and optimised dispatch of Plico’s systems.

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