Energy trial provides an insight into the future

10 May 2017

The successful establishment of a 100 per cent renewable mini grid has provided a valuable glimpse of how energy security and reliability may be boosted in the future, AusNet Executive General Manager, Regulated Energy Services, Alistair Parker said today.

In the latest milestone in its mini grid trial, AusNet demonstrated that a small, residential energy community in Melbourne’s outer east could be successfully separated from and re-integrated with the main power grid.

As part of AusNet’ Mooroolbark Mini Grid trial, eight homes were successfully separated from Victoria’s main electricity grid and, using a combination of solar panels and battery storage, were operated together as a stand-alone mini grid. The homes, including two that had neither solar or batteries, were able to maintain power by sharing electricity via AusNet’ powerlines that connect the mini grid.

Mr Parker, who is speaking at today’s Energy Network Australia’s Welcome to the Grid Edge conference, said that the recent mini grid separation from the main grid was a major milestone and would contribute to AusNet’ understanding of the challenges and opportunities mini grids presented.

“This trial is about finding ways to empower communities and their energy future, and this latest milestone is helping us look at how we can improve energy security in the future,” Mr Parker said.

“In the future, we may be able to use this technology to keep homes powered during major storm events. “We could also use this technology to smooth peak demand on our network, helping to reduce the need to build expensive power stations and therefore reducing costs to customers.

“The electricity network will continue to play an important role in our energy future, but we need to make sure it is able to support technology such as solar panels and battery storage for the benefit of all customers.”

Mr Parker said the trial demonstrated that it was possible to separate a community from the main electricity grid without any interruption to power supply.

“As customers choose to move away from more traditional forms of energy generation, we want to better understand how we can integrate new technology into the existing electricity network so we can improve reliability and security,” he said.

The trial’s next stages include development of additional control functionality to manage peak loads and generation on the network, as well as further testing of the stand-alone supply scenario involving additional customers being integrated into the stand-alone mini grid.

AusNet is Victoria’s largest energy delivery service business, owning and operating about $12 billion of electricity and gas transmission and distribution assets and moves energy across Victoria to more than 1.3 million residential and business customers. 

About the mini grid

The Mooroolbark mini grid is made up of individual households that have the capability to generate, store and manage power, and can be separated from the electricity network for periods.

During the recent trial event, AusNet used a combination of a central control platform and an inverterbased device known as a stabiliser to separate the mini grid from the grid. Different technical features were tested before the homes were re-integrated to the grid.

The cloud-based mini grid control system provided by energy technology company GreenSync and the stabiliser took the mini grid through a sequence of stages to test the stability of the mini grid as an independent, unified renewable energy system.

The stabiliser, developed by technology company Power Technology Engineered Solutions, is a smart battery storage system that smooths out short term variations in energy supply and consumption across the mini grid by either delivering or absorbing power.

It is unique as it operates using distributed renewable and stored energy. Typically, mini grids use a centralised diesel generator.

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