Stabilising the grid with Virtual Power Plants (VPP)

ECOMON – technology to help overcome solar instability with Virtual Power Stations (VPS)

The current problem:  

The use of solar energy is undoubtedly increasing in Australia, with Government records indicating the installation of 3.5 million rooftop solar panels in 2017 (Lipson, 2018). With this rapid increase in solar energy utilization and a high density of residential solar panels, consumers wishing to ‘give back’ to the electrical grid are unable to do so, due to a range of factors including:

  • Fluctuating voltages that restricts users ability to redistribute electricity to the grid.
  • Strict guidelines on solar penetration that prevents consumers from maximizing the distribution of clean energy
  • Solar systems are unable to export energy to the grid at all times of the day.

Issues such as fluctuations of voltage are the result of sudden changes in weather condition, such as temporary cloud coverage, that cause disruption to the generation and magnitude of solar energy. Additionally, the existing operation and setup found in both residential and consumer solar systems – such as air conditioning, hot water units and energy storage, restrict users to a minimal amount of solar power that can be transferred to the grid both sustainability and safely (CSIRO, 2019).

Click on the above image to see an animation of VPS in action provided by the CSIRO.

Partnering with the CSIRO  

In an attempt to minimize the instability of electric power in residential areas, CSIRO have engineered a solution in collaboration with Organica Engineering (OE), through the use of our very own ‘Ecomon 12 Energy Monitor’. Subsequently our monitoring systems has been at the forefront of CSIRO’s ‘Virtual Power Stations’ (VPS), a tool aimed to link solar energy generators with a controlled web-based system.

This intends to provide a consistent and stable energy supply by continuously monitoring and controlling the intermittent generation of solar that is weather dependent. Additionally, this collaboration aimed to provide an improved and reliable method that would allow a network of solar powered products to utilise solar generation without causing harm to the network voltage. The endpoint of this collaborated solution was to consider the needs of both individual PV users and electrical network providers, to ultimately provide an equalised solution that benefited both parties.

Thanks to OE’s innovative and practical ‘Energy Monitoring System’, CSIRO’s VPS can now combine various energy generators into a singular power supply and be outsourced to the electrical grid whilst mitigating the risk of instability when outputting solar energy. The Ecomons enables the coordination of various energy ‘loads’ including electric appliances and air conditions with solar panel systems to ultimately produce a stable and reliable energy source that poses no threat to the power grid of individual homes.

Result:

The integration of the Ecomon in the CSIRO’s ‘Virtual Power Supply’ (VPS2) project was assessed in a trial in the town of Yarrabilba, whereby 67 households were recruited to assess how VPS and Ecomon control systems can regulate and improve the current issues associated with instability of the electrical grid. Findings of the trial highlighted the positive impact that ‘smart energy monitoring hardware’ can have on electrical networks, due to its ability to effectively controlled solar powered systems and export solar power in a steady and sustainable manner. The application of the VPS2 has the potential to provide a mechanism that appropriately benefits household PV owners and electrical distributors by providing a reliable and economically-friendly solution for our communal grid. (Iannunzio, 2018)

The benefit of the ECOMON system, is that it is compatable with a diversity of products and systems, and it does not lock the Virtual Power Station into a single proprietary battery or inverter system.

For more information on the project see:

References:

Csiro.au. (2019). Virtual Power Station – CSIRO. [online] Available at:

https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/EF/Areas/Grids-and-storage/Intelligent-systems/Virtual-power-station

Iannunzio, Cella, Dickers, Journalist, Goldsmith, Dickers, Journalist, Cella and Journalist (2018). Virtual Power Station 2.0: a network game-changer | Utility Magazine. [online] Utility Magazine.

Available at: https://utilitymagazine.com.au/virtual-power-station-2-0-a-network-game-changer/

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