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World’s biggest virtual power plant goes online

AGL Energy Virtual Power Plant (courtesy of AGL)
AGL Energy Virtual Power Plant (courtesy of AGL)

An integrated energy company is building the world’s largest virtual power plant with cloud technology capabilities.

AGL Energy’s Virtual Power Plant Trial promises not to create a dusty construction site with concrete trucks and cranes. The plant will also be clean, quiet and spread across homes and small businesses in a prototype that could potentially be rolled out nationally.

The trial is partially funded by the federally funded Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and involves installing smart batteries in each household. The batteries can ‘talk’ to each other through a cloud-based platform using smart controls. When complete, the connected system will be able to operate as a five megawatt solar plant, powering hundreds of local homes.

“ARENA is accelerating Australia’s shift to a future where energy is produced and used in smarter and more effective ways,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht says.

“In this case, storing and delivering energy at individual houses means power is available very close to where it’s being used, and that has a range of benefits. Instead of getting electricity from large power stations outside cities that’s fed across long power lines, sometimes from different states, households can now use power from the sun, captured and stored from their own roofs.

“Central cloud based controls allow AGL to operate these systems like a typical power station, with even faster response times – discharging electricity to consumers’ homes during periods of high demand and supporting the grid during periods of instability. Ultimately, this means virtual power plants could be rolled out across the country to provide reliable, affordable renewable energy to Australians.”

AGL’s first release of 150 batteries has already sold out and the first offer was so popular, AGL has announced a second release of batteries ahead of schedule.

“It’s important for regulators to see how these systems work in real networks so they can make evidence-based decisions when they’re updating market rules,” Frischknecht says.

“And for AGL and other energy companies, the lessons learned will be invaluable in the future roll-out of similar systems in other locations.”

AGL believes that being a part of the virtual power plant means customers will be able to consume more energy generated from their own rooftop solar systems, lowering their power bills and reducing emissions.

“We had a great deal of interest from the release of the first 150 batteries and I’m thrilled we can now open up the second phase of batteries for sale,” AGL new energy executive general manager Elisabeth Brinton says.

ARENA is providing $5 million towards the $20 million project, contingent on the negotiation of a final funding agreement.

The rollout of batteries will continue into 2017.

People interested in being involved or checking eligibility can register online at agl.com.au/powerinnumbers or call one of AGL’s battery experts on 1300 447 465.

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