Australia: Network business to trial suburban solar+storage mini grid

High electricity network costs have driven rapid increases in electricity prices in many Australian cities. One network provider is looking at how solar+storage can deliver savings for households and also on the network level.

AusNet launched the 12-month trial project today, in which 14 homes along a Melbourne suburban street will be provided with rooftop solar arrays and battery storage systems to form a self-sustaining mini grid.

Installation of the solar+storage systems is currently underway. AusNet will monitor the solar production, storage profiles, and consumption patterns with the aim to develop a supply model by which the suburban street can become self-sufficient. The final stage of the project will be to use the existing electricity ‘poles and wires’, coupled with the distributed generation and storage technologies, to create a what is effectively an offgrid community in a suburban setting.

“AusNet Services is excited to partner with the community to develop systems that may give consumers the choice to share their solar-generated electricity with their communities, potentially lower their bills and support the electricity network,” said AusNet Services managing director Nico Ficca.

“We’ve developed a control system that will monitor and manage energy flows within the mini grid. This system will enable the energy that is stored in batteries to be shared between houses, based on the needs of the individual houses, the diversity of customer loads within the mini grid and the needs of the network,” Ficca added.

AusNet had previously carried out a three-year battery storage trial test, to evaluate the role batteries can play in supporting the grid during peak demand periods and in times of power outage.

AusNet told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that each house will be equipped with a 12 kWh battery system, with each solar+storage system costing AU$15,000 (US$11,700). The network operator acknowledged that at this cost the solution is unlikely to be economic at the individual household level, but that that is likely to change as component prices continue to fall.