Smart swimming pool pilot wins $2.5 million ARENA grant

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Sydney start-up Pooled Energy has secured $2.5 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for a pilot-scale demonstration of its integrated control system, which can cut swimming pool energy consumption and assist the grid.

The $5 million project will see the energy retailer expand the trial of their technology from 400 to 5,000 residential swimming pools in NSW.

The Sydney households that join the 5 MW trial will have their pools upgraded with an intelligent control system that automates and optimizes the energy use, as well as chemical use and water quality of their swimming pool.

The trial will also demonstrate how a large fleet of swimming pools can be coordinated, unlocking the potential for demand response with the help of a cloud-based IoT system.

Namely, the intelligent pool control system can curb pools’ energy consumption during peak times, thus preventing blackouts and price spikes, while it can also allow for a greater integration of renewable energy, such as solar and wind.

The cloud-based control system collects data from sensors that monitor the pool’s water chemistry and temperature, and uses them in conjunction with information on the local weather, the state of the national electricity grid, and the current cost of power to implement an optimal pool management regime.

Additionally, the system is able to use weather forecasts to optimize solar panel use where these are installed on the home, running the pool from panel energy on sunny days.

“Household swimming pools take up a very large load on the electricity network and can contribute to high energy bills for families,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said. “Pooled Energy’s technology will now be able to test turning that load into a significant contribution in providing low cost demand response in significant volume, alongside making significant productivity improvements.”

Depending on their size, residential swimming pools typically account for 30-40% of total household energy consumption, but Pooled Energy’s technology can slash swimming pool energy consumption to 10% of the household’s energy use.

“There are more than 1.4 million swimming pools in Australia, and pools use approximately 10% of the average demand on the residential grid. If all the pool pump and filters were on at once, they would use up to 3.7 GW of energy – the equivalent of two Liddell-sized power stations running at capacity – so there is huge potential to both reduce the amount of energy used and better manage pools for the wider benefit,” said John Riedl, Pooled Energy co-founder and chairman.

According to the company website, the technology and ecosystem for customers have been developed over a seven-year period as part of a $20M R&D program by Pooled Energy’s parent company, Efficiency Filters, which is also Australian.

Pooled Energy is authorized to sell retail electricity exclusively to swimming pool owners and operators in NSW, Queensland, ACT, South Australia and Tasmania.

The Sydney pilot project forms part of a national demand response trial announced by ARENA and AEMO in 2017. The $35.7 million initiative is expected to deliver 200 MW of demand reduction capacity by 2020.