Batteries on Power Poles – What a great idea!

Renew Economy published the following article about 40 pole-mounted community batteries to boost grid reliability.

Michael Mazengarb 20 August 2021 40ShareTweet0Share

One of 40 community batteries to be distributed as part of a United Energy trial in Victoria.
One of 40 community batteries to be distributed as part of a United Energy trial in Victoria.

Batteries will be deployed on suburban power poles as part of an $11 million trial in eastern Melbourne to boost grid reliability and provide homes with rooftop solar with access to a network of community batteries.

The trial will be led by Victorian utility United Energy and will see 40 custom-built 30kW batteries installed across a range of strategic locations in the network – providing a combined 1.2MW of power output and 2.7MWh of storage.

Each battery will provide at least 2 hours of backup storage (or 60kWh) and will be interconnected via a virtual power plant that will allow the batteries to be coordinated and dispatched as a single system, servicing up to 3,000 homes and relieving congested and constrained networks.

The batteries will be mounted on electricity poles throughout the low voltage distribution network in Eastern Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula.

Each will have the capacity to service around 75 homes. The batteries will be manufactured in Victoria by Thycon and will be built to look similar to transformers that are already a standard feature on suburban grids.

By mounting the batteries on the existing power poles, United Energy can avoid the need to secure permanent ground space for the batteries, and it means they can be more easily relocated, providing added flexibility to target areas of the grid facing congestion or constraints.

United Energy says the trial also has the potential to demonstrate the savings that can be achieved through the use of lower cost and more flexible alternatives, like strategically distributed battery storage devices, rather than investing in more costly grid infrastructure.

The batteries will act as a ‘community battery’, effectively storing excess power produced from rooftop solar systems that can be drawn upon overnight or during high demand periods.

“A community battery is a way of storing energy that can then be used locally when it is needed,” United Energy’s general manager for electricity networks, Mark Clarke, said.

“This helps us deliver more reliable and renewable electricity to our customers and support Victoria’s emissions reduction targets.”

“It is a great way of ensuring solar PV exports from homes in the community are consumed locally. From a network perspective, it also helps defer traditional investment so can save money for customers on future network tariffs.”

The expanded trial follows an earlier successful pilot project undertaken by United Energy, which involved the installation of two batteries in Melbourne’s Bayside area. Similar systems could be deployed across other parts of the grid should the trial prove successful.

United Energy will partner with electricity retailer Simply Energy, which will lease the batteries and integrate them into its virtual power plant program, and will see the batteries participate in a range of grid support services, including FCAS markets and wholesale electricity markets.

“The program shows the versatility of battery technology in supporting networks, creating opportunities to trade energy and delivering for solar and non-solar energy customers alike,” Simply Energy CEO Shannon Hyde said.

The project has received backing from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which will provide a $4 million grant in support of the $10.98 million project.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the deployment of battery systems through distribution networks would support the increased installation of rooftop solar while also providing a cost-effective way to manage the reliable supply of power during peak periods.

“As more and more renewable generation comes online, it’s crucial to address the challenges of a changing energy mix and build the grid of the future.

“We’re excited to see United Energy trial a novel approach to battery storage that provides benefits to current and future solar customers and reduces network costs, while also increasing the level of dispatchable generation in the power system.”

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