Owners of rooftop solar systems in Western Victoria are set to benefit from an intensive four-month blitz from electricity distributor Powercor to improve the levels of rooftop solar penetration.
Powercor’s Solar Hotspots Program aims to improve the export capacity of solar systems and reduce the tripping in areas of high rooftop solar penetration due to excesses of solar exportation that the network can’t facilitate.
The program was part of a draft for the 2021-2025 regulatory period proposed by Powercor back in February 2019. The distributor, cognisant that the growth of rooftop solar was only going to accelerate, has therefore developed this program as a way to increase power network capacity in regions of high solar penetration. These “hotspot areas” are areas where “greater than one in three homes has a solar connected” said Mark Clarke, general manager electricity networks.
Clarke noted that in the last 18 months alone, the rate of new applications for solar connections in Powercor has more than doubled, a rate for which Powercor credits the Victoria Solar Homes Program. 21% of Powercor’s customers are now generating a total of 580 MW of excess solar electricity back into the grid, and 5% of CitiPower customers contributing 50 MW.
“We recognise the future of energy is being driven by customer choices” said Clarke, ” and we have a big role in enabling them.”
The program will see field crews deployed to up to 30 hotspot locations a week between March and June 2021. Locations include Ballarat, Bendigo, Portland, and the western suburbs of Melbourne between Sunshine and Point Cook. And on the CitiPower network crews will be dispatched to over the next six months to the inner Melbourne suburbs such as Northcote, Fitzroy, Kew, Camberwell my old stomping grounds of Brunswick.
According to Powercor’s head of customer connections, Daniel Bye, the work these field crews will perform involves balancing the voltage on powerlines and changing the settings on major transformers in zone substations. Powercor’s technical assessment aims for these works to enable at least 80% of new solar applications to export 5 kW. This 80% could translate to an estimated 50,000 current or potential solar customers able to export more solar to the grid.
“We do not prevent customers from installing rooftop solar” continued Clarke, “but we have a responsibility to all our customers to make sure any excess electricity is safely exported into the network.”
To this point, Bye notes that it is very fundamental that Powercor customers “check with us prior to committing to any solar installation, to ensure they have the ability to export their excess generation.”
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