WA announces state’s largest VPP pilot, allocating $35m


The pilot, named Project Symphony, is expected to see over 500 households and businesses participating in a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) pilot to demonstrate how large numbers of batteries, rooftop solar panels and large appliances like air conditioners and electric hot water systems can be co-ordinated to the benefit of the grid and consumers.

The pilot is being developed by Western Power and Synergy, both state-owned, together with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Energy Policy WA. The state’s McGowan Government has committed $27 million to the two-stage $35 million project, and Federal funding being sought for the remainder.

The Perth suburb of Southern River has been chosen to host the VPP as almost 50% of households in the suburb have rooftop solar. Due to Australia’s world leading rooftop solar penetration, the country seems to present the ideal preconditions for widespread VPP adoption – a concept which has gained considerable momentum in the last year.

By aggregating energy from a large fleet, it becomes possible to open up new sources of revenue through participation in the spot market, FCAS market and other markets closed off to individual households. Participation in such markets, in the aggregate, creates an economic incentive for solar and battery storage installations and gives consumers a way to understand that additional value is available to them.

As seems to be the focus of the West Australian government, VPPs also help balance electricity supply and demand, by storing excess energy and adjusting how much energy is being used in real time.

“Using Virtual Power Plants means there is less of a need for traditional generation assets, such as coal or gas, which is a step towards a more sustainable power system,” the state’s Energy Minister, Bill Johnston, said in a statement.

“It will lay the groundwork for a future where household energy devices help keep the power system stable, enabling more and more renewable energy on the grid.”

Project Symphony will build on previous trials run by Western Power and Synergy and will also benefit from the experience of Horizon Power’s Onslow Renewable Energy Pilot. Onslow, a coastal town in the Pilbara region, was in 2016 chosen by Horizon Power to become the site of a pioneering distributed energy resource (DER) incorporating a solar plant, gas power station, grid-scale battery storage, plus rooftop solar, residential batteries. The pilot has proven successful and was last year nominated for an award recognising it for having one of the world’s most advanced microgrids.

VPPs are already fairly well established in the Eastern states, especially in South Australia, with the West Australian government intending to glean some of this knowledge and adapt it for “local conditions.”

It is hoped the pilot will also pave the way for more innovative use of VPPs across WA’s main electricity grid.


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