WA to pilot ‘virtual power plant’

Western Australia has announced a plan to pilot the state’s first ‘virtual power plant’.

Bill Johnston

The trial, dubbed Project Symphony, will see the co-ordination of large numbers of batteries, rooftop solar panels and appliances into a community-scale pop-up power plant.

The project, being developed by Western Power and Synergy, the AEMO and Energy Policy WA, will be hosted at the Perth suburb Southern River and involve more than 500 households and businesses.

A virtual power plant, or VPP, is a centrally-managed network of systems installed behind-the-meter that can be collectively controlled to deliver benefits to households, energy retailers and the local network.

The concept is based on aggregating individual energy resources to help balance electricity supply and demand, and many view the model as an important element of the nation’s future energy security and reliability.

For example, if rooftop solar systems are generating excess power, it will be possible to manage it by storing energy and adjusting how much can be used.

VVPs are already being pioneered in South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

New era in energy for WA

The WA trial is expected to provide immediate benefits for Western Power’s network and pave the way for more innovative use of VPPs across the state’s main electricity grid, the government says.

“Using Virtual Power Plants means there is less of a need for traditional generation assets, such as coal or gas, which is a step towards a more sustainable power system,” Energy Minister Bill Johnston said in a statement.

“It will lay the groundwork for a future where household energy devices help keep the power system stable, enabling more and more renewable energy on the grid.”

The trial will build on previous trials by Western Power and Synergy, as well as Horizon Power’s Onslow distributed energy resource (DER) pilot.

The state government will stump up $75 million for the two-stage, $35 million project and is seeking federal funding for the balance.

It comes after the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)  announced last September that Tesla Motors had received $8.2 million to deploy battery and rooftop solar systems at 3,000 social housing properties  in South Australia which is the site of the nation’s largest VPP being created by AGL.

AGL is also recently expanding its solar battery VPP to the eastern states.

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