Melbourne trial looks to beef up grid for rooftop solar boom

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As Australians continue to install solar panels in droves, a new Victoria-based project dubbed “Creating Solar Friendly Neighborhoods” will test technologies that can beef up the grid to hook up more solar power.

Conducted by gas pipeline owner Jemena, Victorian electricity distributer AusNet Services, and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the two year trial will roll-out three technologies and intelligent control systems that will increase the distributed energy resources hosting capacity of networks. This includes:

i) A dynamic phase switching of customer loads on low voltage feeders to help mitigate the localized voltage surge caused by increasing solar

ii) A dynamic power compensation to adjust the output voltage and mitigate the load unbalance challenge at the source distribution transformer

iii) Battery energy storage with Virtual Synchronous Generator (VSG) capability to mitigate power quality and stability challenges caused by very high penetration of solar.

The trial will target 106 customers in Greenvale across Melbourne’s northern suburbs – part of the Jemena electricity distribution network . While 71 customers will participate in the trial in Montrose – part of AusNet Services electricity distribution network.

Jemena’s Managing Director, Frank Tudor, said the trial was the first of its kind in Australia.

“We know customers are keen to install solar panels on their homes, but that they will continue to look to the existing electricity grid for power during times when the sun isn’t shining,” said Tudor.

“We also know that for some of our customers their solar panels aren’t working as effectively as they could – with limits being placed on the amount of energy they can export back to the grid due to technical constraints. This trial will also address these issues.”

The project has won $1.1 million share of a $9.6 pot allocated by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for five projects and seven studies into the role of distributed generation assets on the grid – and how to expand their penetration.