Trial demonstrates the future of electricity grid management

23 August 2018

An award winning trial of new solar battery coordination technology on Tasmania's Bruny Island has reached a landmark moment in demonstrating how smart coordination of home battery systems can help support electricity networks, while rewarding battery owners for this support.

The CONSORT Bruny Island Battery Trial, led by The Australian National University (ANU),  was able to prevent project partner TasNetworks from having to start their backup diesel generator during a major network peak.

This first of its kind achievement was made possible by the innovative Network Aware Coordination (NAC) software, developed by ANU researchers. The software was able to plan ahead to automatically provide coordinated battery discharges, at the exact times when the undersea cable supplying the island was in danger of overloading.

According to project leader Professor Sylvie Thiébaux, this kind of technology is expected to lead the way in enabling the mass deployment of renewables, whilst keeping distribution networks reliable and affordable.

"Through the Bruny Island trial, we hope to demonstrate how the NAC approach can solve wider network problems, in particular those that can arise through the mass deployment of renewables and electric vehicles. This paves the way for a more intelligent way to operate our networks reliably, where, by collaborating with consumers, we can make the best use of the resources we have."

The project recently took out the 2018 Engineers Australia's Tasmanian Engineering Excellence Award and is now in the running for the national prize, to be announced in September.

It was also awarded the Clean Energy Council's 2018 Business Community Engagement Award and the Electric Energy Society of Australia's Energy Project of the year.

Trial participants are provided with a subsidy to purchase home energy systems that include solar PV and a battery, and a Reposit Power home energy management system. During normal operation, the Reposit system controls the battery to minimise power bills. During peak periods, the NAC software negotiates with each Reposit system to incentivise the battery to support the network.

Participants earn extra payments for providing this support. The ANU is collaborating with Sydney University, who are studying the economics of how battery owners can be fairly rewarded for the fact that their battery is available for providing support.

The trial is providing a wealth of data about the attitudes and responses of trial participants to this new and innovative technology. This social research is being carried out by project partner, the University of Tasmania, which is also involved in the engineering, strategic vision and planning aspects of the trial.

The Australian Government, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), is providing $2.9 million towards the CONSORT project under its Research and Development Program.