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Utilising Technology to Increase Distributed Energy in Low Voltage Networks

A new invention by a Brisbane energy company could help to increase the penetration of home solar and batteries in low voltage areas, reducing the need to build costly distribution grid infrastructure. On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $451,167 in funding to the energy firm to demonstrate the potential of their new technology, eleXsys, to increase distributed energy resources (DER) hosting capacity on low voltage power lines.

The eleXsys device works by regulating voltage on low voltage power lines by dynamically providing or absorbing reactive power, for the benefit of new and existing DER customers where the device is installed. By maintaining voltage within normal operating bands, eleXsys can better utilise DER, such as locally produced solar and battery storage, without expensive grid upgrades.

The $1.92 million trial will be undertaken in conjunction with local distribution network service provider (DNSP) Energy Queensland who will undertake testing of eleXsys at its Real Time Digital Simulator facility in Cairns to show how the device performs across a wider range of network types. The project will also benefit from the insights of several other DNSPs participating in a dedicated stakeholder reference group.

The energy firm will manufacture and install five eleXsys devices, with three being directly connected to Energy Queensland’s network, one being trialled behind the meter on a customer’s premises, and the other being used for testing at the Real Time Digital Simulator facility. The final findings of the project will be made public through a comprehensive knowledge sharing report.

The CEO of ARENA stated that technology will play an increasingly important role in adding more renewables to our energy makeup. To help increase the amount of distributed energy that is available on Australia’s energy network, it is vital that ARENA supports these new technologies such as the eleXsys which not only help to connect more home solar and batteries, but also helps to avoid expensive network augmentation works to support increased demand. He added that ARENA is excited to be supporting the trial of the eleXsys device. After a successful trial in south-east Queensland, the technology could be seen installed across the grid to save costs for users while also enabling more distributed renewals to be connected to the grid.

The CEO of the energy company stated that ARENA’s support and that of Energy Queensland are critical to demonstrating applications of eleXsys in the residential DER market and how existing distribution grids can be supported to host much more exported solar energy than is typically the case in Australia today.

ARENA has previously supported over $100 million of DER projects and established the Distributed Energy Integration Program (DEIP), a collaboration of government agencies, market authorities, industry and consumer associations aimed at maximising the value of customers’ DER for all energy users.

Global revenue for grid edge technologies for distributed energy resources integration is expected to total $120.3 billion from 2015 to 2024, according to a recent report. Utilities the world over are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities as distributed energy penetration increases along different points of the distribution grid, particularly at the edge. While utility efforts to date have largely been reactive, in the longer term, grid edge intelligence and automation for distributed energy is expected to spur the development of markets for clean energy resources and services.

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