Trialling a new residential solar PV and battery model

This project involves Queensland energy provider Ergon Retail undertaking a pilot demonstration to test a commercial and operational model for providing grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage systems to residential customers. The demonstration will involve installing and testing 33 systems in Cannonvale, Toowoomba and Townsville.

Lead organisation:
Ergon Energy Queensland Pty Ltd (Ergon Retail)
Location:
Cannonvale, Toowoomba and Townsville, QLD
Technology:
Hybrid and enabling technologies
ARENA program:
Emerging Renewables Program
Start date:
August 2015

Need

Battery storage has the potential to significantly increase the use of solar PV energy and can provide other significant benefits to the electricity network. The cost of solar PV and battery systems has been dropping and this is expected to continue, resulting in increased take up of these systems. In particular, the market for residential battery storage is rapidly evolving, and understanding the opportunities and barriers associated with this technology will be important in ensuring effective and efficient deployment on electricity networks.

Project innovation

Ergon Retail will be trialling a new business model for providing grid-connected PV and battery systems to residential customers which involves installing the system at the customer’s premises but retaining ownership and charging the customer a fixed service fee.

Ergon Retail will aim to optimise the different value streams available from the PV and battery system, such as minimisation of customers’ electricity bills, reducing Ergon Retail’s wholesale market risk, revenue from the provision of network demand side management services to the network business to reduce network peak demand, and any other possible revenue sources (e.g. related to grid support).

A particular innovation will be to demonstrate the ability of the systems to be centrally monitored and controlled as a “virtual power plant” to realise some of these additional value streams such as the ability to provide co-ordinated demand side management at the request of the network operator in order to reduce network peak load and to receive payments for this service.

The pilot demonstration will draw on real customer and operational experiences to provide a deeper understanding of the costs and benefits of the model. The systems, which will consist of a 4.9kW SunPower PV array and a 12kWh/5kW Sunverge battery storage and control system, are expected to be installed and commissioned by the end of 2015. They will be operated and tested for a period of 12 months with the demonstration expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Benefit

This project will help Ergon Retail assess the commercial and operational viability of this model and help inform it as to when it should proceed to a full commercial launch and scale-up of the service. It will also help Ergon to better understand the opportunities and barriers associated with implementing this kind of model, including the potential benefits to the electricity network such as reduced network costs associated with better-managed network peak demand.

If this trial proves the viability of this type of model, it could open another avenue for Australian consumers, businesses and utilities to benefit from renewable energy.

As a condition of ARENA funding, Ergon Retail will share non-commercially sensitive key learnings from the project with industry stakeholders for the broader benefit of the industry. Examples of information to be shared include:

  • Non-commercially sensitive information on the general nature of the model to be tested and broadly what is required for it to be viable;
  • The technical performance of the systems, and in particular their ability to collectively operate as a “virtual power plant” to provide co-ordinated demand response on-demand in order to reduce network peak load;
  • The value of the systems to the network, and in particular how much the network business will pay for the demand response services to be provided by the systems for reducing network peak demand.
  • Key learnings relating to customer response, safety, regulations, battery standards, implications of future scale-up, and any other key barriers or opportunities of value to industry identified during the project.

Ergon has agreed to share these learnings via presentations at key industry conferences and at project-specific workshops, and via a detailed report to be made publically available at the completion of the project.

More information

Media release – 6 August 2015: Testing a model for residential solar and battery storage

Contact information

Lisa McDonald, Manager Products, Ergon Energy Retail
Phone:
+61 7 4432 8878
Email:
Lisa.mcdonald@ergon.com.au