Energy giant AGL’s dream of a solar PV Virtual Power Plant for Adelaide is taking shape, with a first release of 150 batteries sold out and nine installed.

When complete the company hopes the metropolitan distributed energy network will have an output equivalent to a 5MW solar peaking plant, supported by 1,000 batteries in households and small businesses.

“Storing and delivering energy at individual houses means power is available very close to where it’s being used, and that has a range of benefits,” says ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht.

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“Instead of getting electricity from large power stations outside cities that’s fed across long power lines, sometimes from different states, households can now use power from the sun, captured and stored from their own roofs.”

ARENA is providing $5 million towards the $20 million project.

Each household battery will communicate via a cloud-based platform using smart controls, allowing AGL to operate the systems like a power station but with faster response times. If all goes to plan the virtual plant will discharge electricity to consumers’ homes during periods of high demand and support the grid during periods of instability.

“Ultimately, virtual power plants could be rolled out across the country to provide reliable, affordable renewable energy to Australians,” Frischknecht said.

With some of the highest levels of solar and wind penetration in the world, South Australia is an ideal proving ground for the concept, AGL says.

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The rollout of batteries will continue into 2017, with the second phase focussing on distributing batteries to the Adelaide suburbs of Campbelltown, Tea Tree Gully, Henley South and Ottoway.

The 350 batteries released for sale in the second phase will be available to AGL customers that live in Metropolitan Adelaide and meet the eligibility criteria. They will be able to purchase the Sunverge 11.6kWh battery at $3,849, which includes hardware, software and monitoring services and installation.

This battery includes 50% more capacity than the first offer battery.

AGL customers who have already purchased a battery as part of the Virtual Power Plant will be able to have their Sunverge 7.7kWh battery upgraded to the larger 11.6kWh battery at no extra cost.

For customers with sufficient excess solar generation, this is expected to result in a payback of seven years or less. Customers who do not have solar already will be able to purchase an appropriately-sized solar system packaged with their battery.

It is hoped the project can demonstrate how relationships between electricity networks, retailers, consumers and the market operator can unlock new sources of value and support network reliability in a renewable energy future.

Photos courtesy of AGL