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AusNet Services to Trial New Solar-friendly Technologies

11 February 2019

Innovative technology aimed at dynamically managing the network impact of Australia’s rapidly growing home solar take-up, and thus facilitating more solar panel installations, will be trialled by AusNet Services, in a new $2.2 million project.

The trial, Creating Solar Friendly Neighbourhoods, is a partnership between leading energy infrastructure company AusNet Services; fellow Victorian electricity distributor Jemena; the University of New South Wales; and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which will contribute $1.1 million in funding to the project as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Program.

AusNet Services’ EGM Regulated Energy Services, Alistair Parker, said that if successful, the trial could significantly enhance the ability of electricity networks to respond to customer demand for more homegrown solar power.

“Our customers have told us they want to see collaborative industry research into enabling solar, and this trial brings together leading Australian and international players, government and academia. This technology has the potential to overcome the existing limitations on the numbers of solar installations in some areas, and also allow customers to export more energy to the grid,” he said.

Currently around 18 per cent of AusNet Services’ customers have rooftop solar, but current estimates suggest that figure could be as high as 40 per cent within ten years.

AusNet Services’ part of the two-year trial will roll-out two technologies and intelligent control systems that will increase the distributed energy resources (DER) hosting capacity of networks. AusNet Services has selected a substation in the eastern Melbourne suburb of Montrose as a demonstration site, where there is a reasonably high penetration of PV installations. Two technologies will be tested at this location: -

  • Dynamic LV Phase Switching: Special high speed switches will be installed on a selected number of service poles allowing customer loads to be dynamically shifted between phases. This will enable a better balance of solar and load on each phase, and keep voltage more stable.
  • Dynamic Power Compensator:This new device will be installed at the substation, and will dynamically balance loads and voltages between the individual phases of the transformer. This should also help to enhance the longevity of the transformer.

The technologies will be installed from December this year. Both technologies will be trialled independently and then together on different types of network situations.

“This technology, which has never been seen in Australia before, is a timely and innovative joint response by industry, academia and government to the need to modernise our networks to meet consumer demand and empower our customers as they seek cleaner, cheaper energy options,” Mr Parker said.