Customer portals the latest phase in Mooroolbark mini grid trial

7 March 2017

An energy mini grid trial in Melbourne’s outer east has reached a milestone, with customers now able to monitor and respond to their electricity generation and use within their homes via a new web portal.

Fourteen neighbouring homes in Mooroolbark are taking part in the AusNet trial that will shape how Victorians use, store and share power in the future. 

It is the first mini grid being trialled in an established residential community and will provide important insights into how renewable energy can be integrated into the network and how the electricity grid can benefit from localised energy generation and storage. 

The customer portal is the latest step in this project, with solar panels, 10kWh storage batteries, advanced power management, 3G communications, and safety systems now installed at customer homes.

On Saturday, participants attended a community session in Mooroolbark to learn more about the web based customer portal. 

The portal, developed by Victorian energy technology company GreenSync, provides participating households real time visibility of how their home is being powered – whether via solar, battery storage, the grid or a mix – and provides measures of the level of electricity stored in a battery or being exported to the grid. The portal depicts instant power flows in an animated visual that is updated every minute.

AusNet’ Distributed Energy and Innovation Manager Justin Harding said the customer portal was an exciting milestone for the project.

“The portal will provide customers insights into when their homes are generating, storing and using power, and will allow them to better manage their electricity use and potentially lower their bills,” Mr Harding said.

“AusNet is focused on empowering communities and their energy future, and this trial is an important part of this work.”

A mini grid is a local energy system made up of individual customers who have the capability to generate, store and export power.  A centralised software control system will enable these customers to operate as a unified energy community for the benefit of customers as well as the network. 

Testing is also underway on a grid switch and stabilising device that will enable the mini grid customers to safely and reliably share electricity while separated from the main grid for short periods of time.  

To help AusNet prepare for the significant changes occurring in the energy sector, the Mooroolbark trial is exploring:

  • How each house operates in grid-connected mode, using solar power, batteries and the grid, as well as supporting the network by reducing peak demand, smoothing power flows and improving power quality;
  • How each house operates in off-grid mode, using the individual solar power, batteries and demand/consumption management approaches to optimise energy use; and
  • How the mini grid community operates independently of the main grid, using power sharing to balance energy generation and consumption in a stable, secure way. 

“Each of the mini grid scenarios will give AusNet a better understanding of how to adapt to a future in which we support our customers’ diverse energy choices, while operating our network as efficiently as possible,” Mr Harding said.

The mini grid is expected to be fully operational by the middle of this year.