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ARENA and ISF to trial solar-storage-smart inverter on 150 Australian homes

Tapping into the potential of smart inverters could increase the uptake of rooftop solar in Australia. Source: istock wx-bradwang

The Australian Renewable Energy Association (ARENA) has partnered with the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) in conducting a trail on more than 150 households in New South Wales and Victoria to test how smart inverters can enhance residential solar-plus-storage systems and improve the stability of electricity on the grid.

ARENA is providing AU$1.87 million (US$1.38 million) in funding for the ISF at the University of Technology Sydney for the trial, known as ‘Networks Renewed’.

“ARENA is at the forefront of efforts to integrate renewable energy into our electricity grids and at the same time provide affordable, reliable and sustainable power for Australians,” said CEO Ivor Frischknecht. “Australian households are world-leaders in rooftop solar adoption and now we’re seeing fast-growing interest in residential battery storage.

“With the right approach, we see strong potential for this ‘decentralised energy’ revolution to improve stability of the grid while giving customers extra incentives to put solar on their roofs.”

“This is an exciting moment in our energy transition. Using Australian innovation, this project will tap the crucial but little-known potential of smart inverters to improve power quality on the grid,” ISF research director Chris Dunstan said in a statement. “If managed well, solar and batteries not only avoid such problems, they can actually provide support to vulnerable parts of the grid and reduce the need for costly new network infrastructure. “While this smart technology exists in all inverters sold today, electricity networks have rarely used it for this purpose and never with sophisticated controls.

“If successful, the trial will demonstrate how solar and battery storage can help support reliable networks and accelerate uptake of rooftop solar in Australia.”

Recently, ARENA backed an AU$120 million solar-wind-battery project in North Queensland that demonstrated similar grid balancing capabilities. The trend for these types of projects comes as the Australian grid has come under fire by industry bodies who claim the integration of renewables is responsible for rate hikes in the south of the country, with others claiming that such integration is putting strain on the grid.

Pairing the variable generation of renewables such as solar or wind with energy storage allows for a smoother entrance of electricity on the grid via frequency regulation and voltage control. The introduction of smart inverters into this dynamic will test how power quality and reliability can be increased.

If successful, ISF’s trial will not only demonstrate how solar and battery storage can help support reliable networks, but also accelerate uptake of rooftop solar.

ISF is partnering in the trial with electricity network businesses – Essential Energy in New South Wales (NSW) and United Energy in Victoria – who will recruit households in the respective states. ISF is also collaborating with storage software start-up Reposit Power, solar technology provider SMA Australia, the Australian Photovoltaic Institute, and the NSW and Victorian governments on the innovative venture.

Tags: australia, arena, solar-plus-storage, renewables integration, battery, residential, frequency regulation, grid stability, investment, smart inverters, rooftop solar