Mapping the future of distributed energy resources

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by Lauren DeLorenzo, Journalist, Utility Magazine

While Australia’s renewable energy transformation is well underway, investment in Distributed Energy Resource (DER) projects is on the rise. Here, Utility maps some of the country’s most significant DER initiatives to date.

DER refers to renewable energy systems that typically generate power in homes or businesses and can supply power to the grid when needed. Examples include rooftop solar photovoltaic units, battery storage, thermal energy storage, electric vehicles, smart meters and smart home technologies, such as hot water systems or smart appliances. of DER.

With demand for DER expected to increase, Energy Networks Australia’s Electricity Grid Transformation Roadmap estimates that DER could contribute up to 45% of Australia’s electricity by 2050.

DER offers many benefits, including reduced grid costs, which could also lead to lower overall energy costs. The cost savings can extend to customers using DER, as they can sell excess energy back to the grid, which is especially needed during peak periods.

This can increase overall grid reliability, especially when used to supplement regions that rely heavily on intermittent power sources such as wind and solar.

The challenge is to manage the technical issues that arise when integrating DER into the grid, with businesses and government departments considering how to do this at scale.

In many cases, this means that network upgrades are required to ensure that DERs are implemented safely in the network. As investments in DER research, feasibility studies, and projects multiply year after year, we look at how each state is advancing its own DER plans with major projects in development.


Edge Project Trial

The EDGE (Energy Demand and Generation Exchange) project is Victoria’s three-year trial that aims to demonstrate a proof-of-concept DER, which could provide both local and wholesale network services.

The $28 million project is a collaboration between Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), AusNet Services and Mondo, and will see the creation of a prototype model for DER to contribute energy to the national market electricity (NEM).

Residential, industrial and commercial customers in the Hume area of ​​North East Victoria are involved. Initially, the project will serve around 50 residential customers, but will expand to 1,000 customers.

Participating residents will have access to $1,000 battery grants, with a crowdfunding payment of $1,000 per year and a free UBI energy management system. Companies involved in the project will be offered a power purchase agreement for a solar photovoltaic system without initial capital and the first three months of free energy. They can also access a system battery grant of $6,000 per 50 kWh and will receive a free UBI energy management system.

With research advice from Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, the project will demonstrate how a cluster of small solar battery systems can drive better power grid responses, reduce outages and lower power prices. energy.

The project aims to demonstrate a market where customer-owned DERs are integrated into the electricity distribution network, to improve understanding of the future roles of the distribution system operator functions and to better understand the overall costs and benefits. different DER market models to inform future planning. .

Indra Monash Smart City

Victoria’s Indra Monash Smart City project aims to integrate DER technologies into the in-vehicle network at Monash University’s Clayton Campus. Indra will use its innovative platform to monitor grid-connected assets in real time, including a minimum of 1 MW of solar panels, 20 buildings, electric vehicle charging stations and 1 MWh of energy storage.

Western Australia

Symphony Project

Western Australia’s $35.5 million Symphony project will see the development of an DER within the South West Interconnected System in Perth.

Western Power has partnered with Synergy and AEMO to deliver the pilot, which will take place over two years and will see 500 customers with over 900 individual DER assets connected to a virtual power plant.

The project aims to efficiently coordinate and manage DER assets such as rooftop solar, major appliances, and battery storage with software-based power distribution systems. Ultimately, the project should identify the additional investments needed to expand DER in Western Australia and inform the state’s DER roadmap.

Onslow DER Project

The Onslow DER project, carried out by Horizon Power, is a microgrid that serves the city with a mix of energy sources, including renewables, gas-fired modular generation and battery storage.

Stage 1 saw the construction of a new transmission line and a gas-fired modular power plant. Stage 2 was to build a solar farm and battery energy storage system (BESS).

Horizon has partnered with PXiSE Energy Solutions to provide software for a distributed energy resource management system, which is expected to address reliability and operational issues faced by DER.

Alkimos Beach Solar and Storage Trial

Combining battery storage and rooftop solar, the $6 million solar and storage test project at the Alkimos Beach Residential Development involves the implementation of a solar energy storage system. fully contained lithium-ion energy and testing of new electrical retail products.

This new energy retail model aims to show how high-level enabling solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies can be integrated.

South Australia

South Australia’s strategy to grow DER’s presence in the state focuses on extending and transforming its existing network, particularly capitalizing on the extensive use of rooftop solar already in place.

The strategy also focuses on transitioning from fixed export limits for DER customers to flexible connections enabled by smart inverters, with the aim of offering a flexible connection option as standard for all new solar customers. from 2022.

AGL Virtual Power Plant

Solar battery storage systems in 1,000 homes and businesses in Adelaide will be connected and managed by a cloud-based control system at AGL’s Virtual Power Plant (VPP), the largest in the country.

The $19.52 million connected system allows the batteries to work together as a 5 MW solar power plant and leverages the massive adoption of rooftop solar in South Australia. AGL has since announced an expansion of its virtual power plant, launching facilities for residents of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Customers in these states will be able to purchase Tesla batteries or LG Chem batteries with Solar Edge hardware at discounted prices under the VPP program. In exchange for AGL’s access to batteries during off-peak hours to improve grid reliability, customers will receive payments from AGL.

New South Wales

Aztec Enerverter Project

Developed by Restech, the Enerverter Project Aztec is a small inverter that simultaneously controls multiple power sources, such as battery power and solar PV. The power is used to run industrial-sized motors. The project involved developing a prototype, testing real-world water and wastewater applications, and then bringing the product to market.

The multi-input, multi-output inverter uses energy storage to power pumping and water treatment, and can be used to balance application energy needs.

Study of the MATCH project

This $2.19 million study, conducted by the University of New South Wales in partnership with AEMO and Solar Analytics, aims to understand how DER responds to disturbances in the energy system.

The MATCH (Monitoring and Analysis Toolbox for Compliance in a High DER future) project will inform future practices and measures to be put in place to ensure a reliable system with high levels of DER.

The study aims to develop new data analysis tools and techniques that can be used to help AEMO manage the implementation of DER, for example by making changes to Auxiliary Frequency Control Services (FCAS) or constraints.


evolve DER

The evolve DER project focuses on software systems integrated with operational technologies used to manage distribution networks. Led by Zeppelin Bend in conjunction with industry and government bodies, the project aims to increase the hosting capacity of DER’s network while remaining within the capacity of those networks. The intended outcome of the study is to develop scalable capabilities and systems to better orchestrate DER adoption in networks.


Optimal DER Scheduling for Frequency Stability study This study, conducted by the Australian National University (ANU) in partnership with TasWorks, Powerlink Queensland and Tenische Universitat Berlin, will investigate the best way to program the DER to provide low cost stability services without exceed network capacity.

The investigation focuses on the development and testing of software to orchestrate DER fleets in distribution networks and enable them to provide ancillary frequency control services.

Australian Capital Territory

DER Integration and Automation Project

This now completed project illustrated how Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS) and the GreenSync Decentralized Energy Exchange (deX) could optimize DER assets and network hosting capacity.

Using Evoenergy’s Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) and Schneider Electric’s DERMS, the project was able to demonstrate grid models of current and future scenarios, before applying it to simulated DER fleets in within deX to demonstrate additional network hosting capability.