Solar-backed stand-alone power systems put to test in Victoria

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Residents of remote parts of Tolmie, Swifts Creek, Ensay and Benambra in Victoria’s East Gippsland region are participating in the state’s first trial of stand-alone power systems (SAPS) with Ausnet investigating the use of the technology as part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen network efficiency and resilience.

The distributed network service provider said the SAPS, featuring a combination of solar, batteries and a back-up generator, offer an independent, reliable and renewable power supply solution to energy users in remote locations without the need to be connected to the network.

AusNet’s commercial arm, Mondo, said the trial units include ground-mounted solar panels, a battery energy storage system, and a back-up diesel generator. The self-sufficient units also include control hardware that allows electricity use to be tracked.

“We now have 17 systems successfully installed and operational across Victoria and look forward to seeing more homes and businesses benefiting from reliable and renewable energy,” Mondo said.

The trial has prioritised residents in remote areas with a single-wire network connection. The targeted areas also are typically in bushfire and extreme-weather-prone zones where the poles and lines are often affected, leading to outages.

Mondo, which will be responsible for all the operation and maintenance of each stand-alone power system, said the SAPS aim to use solar energy as the primary source of electricity and have been designed with a large amount of battery storage to minimise generator usage and improve users’ energy resilience.

With the installation and commissioning of the first 17 SAPS now complete, Mondo and AusNet will monitor and evaluate the performance of the systems as part of the open-ended trial.

While the key benefit of SAPS is an improvement in resilience and reliability of supply for customers in hard-to-reach areas, AusNet said it expects all customers could enjoy cost savings as a result of it not having to repair and maintain remote parts of the distribution network.

Mondo said the SAPS are already providing benefits to the customers, including the increased uptake of renewables and increased resilience during severe weather events.

“As the trial continues, we are excited to observe and learn from each system and we look forward to leveraging our knowledge to implement more stand-alone power systems across Australia,” the company said.

While the AusNet trial is a first for Victoria, the technology has been widely deployed in Western Australia.

Previous regulations made it extremely difficult to deploy SAPS in the National Electricity Market (NEM) but those regulations have now been amended, paving the way for broader roll out of the technology in the NEM jurisdictions of Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania.

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