South Australia depends on a lot of renewables, such as solar, but what happens at night, or on cloudy days, when the solar panels aren’t generating much energy? Sadly, we have to buy our energy from another source, such as Victoria (nasty coal power!). To avoid this, we can utilise new technology like virtual power plants (VPP). Essentially, this means aggregating thousands of individual home batteries which allows renewable energy to be injected back into the grid when necessary to address frequency and voltage imbalances, local disruptions or disturbances and to keep our network stable, so that we don’t have to buy our energy from interstate.

Credit: Energy Storage Forum

Did you know that we’ve already got VPP’s here in SA? The Tesla designed and developed SA VPP, launched in 2018, was the first virtual power plant in Australia and the world’s largest. It consists of a continuously growing network of homes, with solar panels and a home battery, that are all virtually connected. It uses wifi technology and sophisticated software to charge and discharge energy from the home battery systems, and trade it on the National Energy Market.

Essentially, participating households generate solar electricity which is stored in their home batteries as normal. However, if the grid needs a top up, the software will request the home batteries to discharge some electricity. Likewise, if the household needs a top up, they can buy grid electricity at a reduced price. It helps keep the network stable during fluctuating conditions, prevents overloads, provides blackout protection, assistance in disaster management situations, and everyone gets a good price for renewables.

Currently, at-risk and high-need households within Housing SA are benefitting from this technology. Renters are often unable to enjoy the benefits of a solar installation so this opportunity increases energy equity and enables eligible renters to participate in the project. Private households can also join the SA VPP by taking up the Tesla Energy Plan. This Guardian article gives a good breakdown of the pros and cons. You don’t need to already have a battery at your home, but you will have to have one installed. Go here to read about all the T&Cs. The SA VPP is a collaborative effort funded by the Government of South Australia, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Renewable Technology Fund, Grid Scale Storage Fund, and Tesla, but there are now several others you can join if you have a battery that’s not a Tesla, such as sonnenCommunity or ShineHub.

In the end, VPPs are another tool we can use to stabilise our grid and provide cheaper and greener electricity for all. With further government assistance to initiate more projects, and help regulators update policy and pricing guidelines, VPPs will hopefully become common place and an easy and effective way to ensure energy equality for all.

If you have a battery set up at your home or business, it could be worth joining a VPP. There are plenty of websites detailing the rebates and incentives available. As always, we are here to help, so drop us a line if you need a hand.