N2a – Low cost visibility of network conditions
Demonstration of low cost solutions for visibility of network conditions at the low voltage/customer end of the grid. This Theme aims to access data from comms-enabled monitoring devices at customer premises to provide finely grained real time data on network conditions.
By adding value for customers via enhanced data and control, this Theme will develop options to provide network visibility data at low cost to network operators and to their customers. This is likely to lift DER hosting capacity significantly.
N2b – Assessing and mapping the DER hosting capacity of energy networks.
This includes assessing and mapping the capacity of energy networks to connect and manage Distributed Energy Resources, such as distributed solar, battery storage and electric vehicles.
N2c – Mainstreaming customer DER network support (integrating solar, storage and flexible loads)
Pilot projects to integrate higher penetrations of variable renewables, storage and flexible loads. This could build on precedents such as the “Networks Renewed” project which successfully demonstrated, in fringe of grid in NSW and Victoria, how advanced power conditioning in modern smart inverters can be used to provide network support in the form of voltage management and power factor correction.
What’s the industry problem?
Many of the greatest challenges in the electricity system today occur at the low voltage level, at or near customers premises. These challenges include voltage excursions, phase imbalance, poor power factor and thermal capacity limits.
The rapid uptake of rooftop solar has highlighted these challenges. If not well managed, household batteries and electric vehicles could further exacerbate these challenges.
However, most network businesses currently have poor realtime data on network conditions (“network visibility”) at the low voltage level. This severely curtails their capacity to manage such challenges and limits both DER hosting capacity and solar export capacity.
There is limited data on the hosting capacity of networks for distributed energy resources, or large scale renewables, making planning by developers and DNSPs difficult. Increasing hosting capacity is crucial as there is greater demand for distributed energy resources (DER) capacity to be connected.
Rooftop PV systems are rapidly proliferating. Almost one quarter of Australian homes now have rooftop PV.
However, there is an emerging trend to limit PV export due to actual and perceived network hosting capacity and other network constraints.
If rooftop PV (and battery and EV storage) are to reach their potential, then it is essential that these DERs support and are perceived to support rather than undermine network capacity.
This Theme will offer network businesses insight into extent of local voltage excursions and poor power factor to allow more targeted investment, improved reliability, better distributed solar performance and improved hosting capacity.
Enhanced mapping of network hosting capacity will support network planning and assist DER proponents in developing projects. Increased precision in planning for grid investment and DER, with improved cost and reliability outcomes. Successful pilot projects demonstrating how smart inverters can increase the hosting capacity for rooftop PV and relieve network constraints would create powerful precedents.
Even a 2% increase in hosting capacity and optimised solar output would represent a potential benefit to consumers of more than $50M pa.
Such technology is also likely to have very significant export potential.