New trial to unlock grid value in household solar and batteries

Rooftop solar panels on suburban houses

Tapping into the potential of smart inverters could increase the uptake of rooftop solar in Australia (Photo: istock wx-bradwang)

In summary: 
  • More than 150 households in NSW and Victoria will be recruited to test how "smart inverter" technology can work alongside rooftop solar and residential battery storage to boost power quality and reliability
  • Led by UTS's Institute for Sustainable Futures, the trial will will tap the "crucial but little-known potential" of smart inverters to improve power quality on the grid

An innovative new trial is aiming to harness rooftop solar and home energy storage to cut costs and improve the stability and reliability of Australia's electricity supply.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $1.87 million in funding for the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology Sydney to lead the trial, dubbed Networks Renewed.

It will test how smart inverters can work alongside rooftop solar and residential battery storage to boost power quality and reliability.

More than 150 electricity customers in NSW and Victoria will be recruited to the trial. If successful, it will not only demonstrate how solar and battery storage can help support reliable networks, but also accelerate uptake of rooftop solar.

ISF Research Director Chris Dunstan said, "This is an exciting moment in our energy transition. Using Australian innovation, this project will tap the crucial but little-known potential of smart inverters to improve power quality on the grid."

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said ARENA was pleased to be supporting Networks Renewed as part of ARENA's efforts to accelerate Australia's transition to an energy system powered by renewables that will serve the needs of Australians into the future.

"ARENA is at the forefront of efforts to integrate renewable energy into our electricity grids and at the same time provide affordable, reliable and sustainable power for Australians," Mr Frischknecht said.

"Australian households are world-leaders in rooftop solar adoption and now we're seeing fast-growing interest in residential battery storage.

"With the right approach, we see strong potential for this 'decentralised energy' revolution to improve stability of the grid while giving customers extra incentives to put solar on their roofs."

ISF is partnering in the trial with electricity network businesses – Essential Energy in New South Wales (NSW) and United Energy in Victoria – storage software start-up Reposit Power, solar technology provider SMA Australia, the Australian Photovoltaic Institute, and the NSW and Victorian Governments.

NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, Anthony Roberts, said this is a great opportunity to further test how solar and storage can be a win-win for consumers and network businesses.

"This innovative trial under NSW conditions will help build the knowledge we need to accelerate our pathway to an advanced energy system. We want to ensure our solar and battery options further empower consumers to drive down their energy costs while also ensuring the security and reliability of our grid," Mr Roberts said.

For safe, reliable and steady supply, power has to be kept within tight voltage and quality limits. Solar and batteries can sometimes create power quality problems for the network if they are not managed well.

"If managed well, solar and batteries not only avoid such problems, they can actually provide support to vulnerable parts of the grid and reduce the need for costly new network infrastructure," said Mr Dunstan.

"While this smart technology exists in all inverters sold today, electricity networks have rarely used it for this purpose and never with sophisticated controls."

Essential Energy will recruit households in the NSW demonstration and United Energy will recruit households in Victoria. For more information about the trial, visit isf.uts.edu.au.