Sunverge customer AGL launches virtual power plant in Australia

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Sunverge Energy, a provider of energy storage systems for residences and small businesses, is partnering with Australia energy retailer AGL and the federal government's Australian Renewable Energy Agency, to develop a virtual power plant.

"This project is the world's largest, the first of its kind and an innovative solution to both help customers manage their energy bills and at the same time contribute to grid stability," said AGL Managing Director and CEO Andy Vesey. "This project is core to AGL's strategy of being a manager of distributed energy resources. It also leverages our investment in Sunverge and helps us to continue to improve the digital customer experience."

Using cloud-based software, the virtual power plant directs energy storage units to operate in unison to meet peak energy demand across an entire community or service area, helping consumers use their own rooftop solar or stored solar power during peak demand periods and reduce their power bills.

Energy storage systems not part of a virtual power plant are unable to provide services to the grid or to benefit from the intelligent energy management provided by the grid. By contrast, when storage systems operate as part of a virtual power plant the ultimate result is a stronger and more reliable power grid, more efficient energy management and greater value and long-term bill reductions for consumers.

The AGL virtual power plant will be capable of storing 7 MWh of energy, with an output equivalent to a 5 MW solar peaking plant, enough power for 1,000 homes. It will also provide greater grid stability, demonstrate alternative ways to manage peaks in demand and support the higher penetration of intermittent, renewable generation on the grid.

The project will be rolled out in three phases over a period of about 18 months. In the first phase, running until April 2017, the first 150 customers in metropolitan Adelaide will be eligible to purchase a discounted Sunverge SIS 5kW/7.7kWh energy storage system for AUS $3,500, which includes hardware, software and installation.

For customers with sufficient excess solar generation, this is expected to result in a seven-year payback period. Consumers currently without solar will be able to purchase a solar system of the appropriate size for their needs with their battery.

Later phases will see an offering to narrower zones within metropolitan Adelaide where peak demand management and other network support services can be demonstrated.

It is also hoped the project can demonstrate how relationships between electricity networks, retailers, consumers and the market operator can create new sources of value and stability in a renewable energy future.

The overall project cost is about AUS $20 million, with ARENA providing conditional approval of $5 million as part of its Advancing Renewables Program, which aims to support the penetration of renewables on the grid.

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