For the past month, electricity distributor SA Power Networks has been maximising solar export opportunities in Adelaide’s southern suburbs in a trial funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
Mark Vincent, GM Strategy and Transformation at SA Power Networks said the smart “Flexible Exports” option enables new solar customers to export up to 10kW per phase from their panels, double the current standard export limit.
“We are in the early stages of this new technology, and Flexible Exports is a world-first that will help us accommodate more solar on our network,” Vincent said.
Project partners have spent the past nine months developing the necessary technology to enable dynamic management of solar export limits, which will see export limits automatically update throughout the day to reflect the export capacity of the local network.
Approximately 300,000 homes and businesses across the state have rooftop solar and while this does make South Australia the ‘renewable state’ it also poses as a challenge because a large percentage is aggregated and unmanaged.
The enormous amount of solar running through the grid places the state at risk of future state-wide blackouts.
The introduction of Flexible Exports is being prioritised as an alternative to lower fixed export limits in congested areas of the network.
Initially, this will be areas served by the Sheidow Park substation, including parts of Hallett Cove, Sheidow Park, Trott Park, Reynella, Old Reynella, Reynella East, O’Halloran Hill and Happy Valley.
Households that want to connect or upgrade solar will be offered the choice of a fixed 1.5kW limit or a flexible export limit up to 10kW.
“Based on network conditions experienced over the past 12 months, the flexible option would allow customers the opportunity to export 10kW for 98 per cent of the time,” Vincent said.
The proposal does not affect existing solar customers, or those connecting or upgrading systems in other parts of the network that are not congested – they will remain on their current limit of 5kW per phase.
Although the network is only congested at rare times, more than 46 per cent of households in the area have solar and the local network is reaching its limit to support more solar connections at the current fixed export limit of 5kW.
Flexible export limits offered under the trial will enable more customers to connect solar and provide greater solar export opportunities throughout the year.
“We expect that once we have proven the technology and assessed the customer experience that this will become a standard offer for new solar customers in South Australia from mid-2022,” Vincent said.
“It is part of our plan to double the amount of solar that we can accommodate on our network by 2025.”
SA Power Networks has an advisory service available for customers in the trial area who are thinking about investing in solar – phone 1300 665 913 during office hours.