The Western Australia Labor state government is moving forward with Project Symphony in a plan to link over 500 homes and businesses equipped with rooftop solar and home batteries in a virtual power plant. They plan also includes large appliances like air conditioners and electric hot water systems.
Virtual Power Plants (VPP) manage the flow of energy from individual home-based solar and batteries, aggregating them for storage and use. They help the grid to balance supply and demand. This increases the reliability and stability of the grid. It may mean that some home and business owners will have an extra income stream, selling power back into the grid when demand (and the price) is highest. It also stops surplus renewable energy from being wasted.
Earlier this year, solar provided 65% of the power consumed on the SWIS (South West Integrated System) in Western Australia from the 1.3 GW installed on roofs alone. Sunny days mean lots of power.
Australia has the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world. Most states are at various stages of integrating small privately owned solar into some sort of VPP. There are times in South Australia when this power source can supply the needs of the whole grid in that state.
To speed up the process, Victoria is offering subsidies for household battery purchases, with the provision that energy companies are allowed access to stored power during peak energy events. This would seriously reduce demand on the system at peak hours and reduce costs for all concerned. Much cheaper than putting in a big battery or another gas-fired power plant.
At some stage in the future, VPPs may also include electric vehicle charging and EV batteries as the grid switches from centralized generation to distributed energy resources.
Music to our ears indeed!