Smart micro-grid to debut in regional NSW

Battery power system to regulate and monitor energy use

A RedFlow stand alone power system designed for off-grid applications

A RedFlow stand alone power system designed for off-grid applications

Houses in the Newcastle and Scone regions of NSW have been selected to trial battery-powered “micro-grid” which can increase energy efficiency and reduce the impact of outages.

The trial is being managed by Ausgrid, the electricity network made up from the former EnergyAustralia, and is set to involve some 60 households.

When fitted with a “mini power station” Ausgrid can test powering the network during peak times and houses will be better shielded from outages with battery and other energy sources like solar.

The project is part of the federal government’s three-year $100 million Smart Grid, Smart City project, which was originally won by EnergyAustralia.

Participants will also be given the opportunity to take up time-based pricing and use the battery to help lower energy bills

In February, EnergyAustralia indicated the NBN could also be used in conjunction with certain types of smart grid projects and regional areas like Scone and Newcastle are set to benefit most from a national broadband network.

Households would be invited to take part in the trials by mid-year, which would involve installing an energy storage unit on the property for a period of two years.

Ausgrid energy efficiency expert Paul Myors said the trial will test whether energy storage technology can make the electricity supply more reliable and give people greater control over household energy use.

“It will help us understand the technical impacts of adding battery storage to the grid and the opportunities to use those resources to power local areas during essential maintenance or outages,” Myors said.

“We will create a micro-grid in Scone, making part of the area self-sufficient during outage trials and any unplanned interruptions caused by storms or other events.”

Homes on the micro-grid can be powered independently of the electricity network using battery storage and other energy generation including wind and solar.

Elermore Vale (Newcastle) and Scone were selected (40 and 20 houses, respectively) following technical assessments of Ausgrid’s local network and because they “represent other urban and rural areas in Australia that could benefit from the trial”, according to Ausgrid.

The device is a five kilowatt zinc-bromine battery about the size of a slim fridge and is installed outside the house near the electricity meter. They are manufactured and installed by local company RedFlow and will be monitored by Ausgrid engineers.

The steel-covered unit includes a battery, inverter and control and communications systems, which can use the 3G mobile network.

At Brisbane-based Redflow, the news is all good with the contract for 60 RedFlow R510 energy storage systems bringing its order book to a “record level”.

RedFlow CEO Phil Hutchings said the contract represents a continuation of the company’s work with Ausgrid since mid-2010 following the first installation of a single zinc-bromine flow battery module at its Smart Home in the Sydney suburb of Newington.

“The new R510 installations will put RedFlow’s energy storage systems on the world stage when it comes to Smart Grid technologies which will eventually be rolled-out globally,” Hutchings said.

“This Ausgrid contract win provides further evidence that our systems are being well received by the market.”

Ausgrid’s Myors said the Elermore Vale participants will also be given the opportunity to take up time-based pricing and use the battery to help lower energy bills.

“This can be done by drawing power from the grid in off-peak times when power is cheaper, and storing it for use in peak periods when power costs more.”

From Ausgrid’s perspective, reducing the demand for power during peak times can prevent the need to build “costly infrastructure” just to cater for peaks and makes the electricity network more efficient.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

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Tags powerEnergyAustraliaBatteriesenergy efficiencysmart gridsRedFlowNBNAusgrid

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