The world's biggest residential 'virtual power plant' has just been switched on in Adelaide

Photo: read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Energy company AGL just made a giant leap forward in the future of how energy is gathered and shared, building the world’s largest residential virtual power plant (VPP) in Adelaide and switching it on today.

The scheme is seen by many in the renewables sector as the future for the grid, connecting multiple homes generating power and storing it in onsite batteries to share on the network when renewables such as solar energy are unavailable.

So far batteries have been installed in 60-plus homes throughout Adelaide and can offer to simultaneously aggregate the battery discharge into the grid. When the project is completed over the next 18 months, the VPP will have 5MW peak capacity.

AGL CEO Andy Vesey said the home batteries are linked via a cloud-based software platform by Sunverge.

“We believe the VPP will deliver benefits for multiple groups including for customers by reducing their energy bills, the network by lowering required capital investment to upgrade infrastructure, for AGL by providing another source of generation to deploy into the network with the balance used in our portfolio, and the environment through reduced emissions,” he said.

Here’s how AGL explains the system:

AGL estimates customers in the VPP trial will save around $500 per year on energy bills. Households involved in the $20 million trial, which received $5 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), also received heavily subsidised batteries from AGL. The 11.6kWh energy storage system including hardware, software and install starts at just $3,849.

The trial is in its infancy, with three phases to be rolled out and 1,000 batteries installed by the second half of 2018. So far, the VPP has produced more than 300kW of battery capacity, with more than 200kW of associated solar capacity. At this point peak output is a little over 0.5MW, and the VPP has stored and delivered more than 10,000kWh to date.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said his organisation was fast-tracking the shift to battery storage.

“This trial will pave the way for more virtual power plants to be added to our networks, increasing energy security and reliability by enabling networks to capture, store and deliver solar direct from customers’ roofs, rather than relying solely on grid infrastructure,” he said.

While the AGL launch was a milestone in the use of renewable energy, verbal fisticuffs between SA premier Jay Weatherill and federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg all but overshadowed the pioneering venture.

Here’s Andy Vesey enjoying it nonetheless:

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