Melbourne suburb to go off grid with solar and energy storage

A first-of-its kind trial in Australia will take part of a Melbourne suburb completely off grid using rooftop solar and battery storage.

The trial planned by Victorian network operator Ausnet Services – and launched last week by Victorian energy minister Lily d’Ambrosio – aims to test the use of mini-grids within major towns and cities as a cost-effective alternative to the century-old model of large centralised generators and expansive and costly networks.

Ausnet will install between 3kW and 4.5kW of rooftop solar and 10kWh of battery storage on each of 14 homes in the outer eastern suburb of Mooroolbark, an area chosen partly due to an existing network constraint, and because the network configuration means it is relatively easy to take the houses off the grid.

The network operator will first monitor the production and consumption patterns of the 14 homes, before then inviting them to individually quit the grid, and see how long that lasts, and then to quit the grid altogether but share their solar and storage in an islanded network.

The 12-month trial will repeat this in several different seasons.

Ausnet managing director Nine Ficca said the “exciting” and “ground-breaking” trial would demonstrate that homes with residential solar systems and batteries could generate, store and share renewable electricity with each other, and operate as a ‘mini grid’ via their local power lines.

“AusNet Services is excited to partner with the community to develop systems that may give consumers the choice to share their solar-generated electricity with their communities, potentially lower their bills and support the electricity network,” Ficca says.

The interest of the network is to remain relevant in a future that is dominated by locally generated solar and battery storage. Most utilities now accept that, within a few decades, around half of all electricity demand will be satisfied by “distributed energy”, and this means a complete revision of the energy market structure.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson