Solar storage and the Virtual Power Plant – What you need to know

Solar storage (batteries) have fast become an important part of the South Australian energy equation.

On one hand, homeowners with rooftop solar can now store the excess energy their panels generate during the day for use when required.

On the other hand, the South Australian energy market has been rapidly reshaped with the introduction of the Virtual Power Plant, or VPP, which is designed to:

  • lower energy prices
  • increase grid stability
  • provide protection during a grid outage
  • increase visibility of your energy use
  • support South Australia’s transition to a renewables-based economy.

And with tight competition causing prices to dip by over 50% in recent years, batteries have never been more affordable.

If you’re thinking of taking the leap into the world of solar batteries, it’s important to have a good understanding of how batteries operate in relation to a VPP to determine if it’s right for your home.

Picking the right battery for your home

Whether or not a battery is right for your home depends on your specific lifestyle and energy consumption habits. For some homeowners, it may make sense to only have a basic solar panel system without one.

An advantage of batteries, is maximizing self consumption and backup power. With weather conditions becoming more extreme, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has warned that the risk of blackouts and energy outages is at risk of increasing, making stable energy more essential than ever. We’ve seen recently that during stressful times, such as bushfires and severe weather incidents, and now Covid-19, the local energy grid can be overwhelmed. Reducing your reliance on the grid and employing a solar battery solution improves the overall community impact and lowers energy costs for all South Australians.

Households with high energy consumption benefit most from investing in a battery. With an ever increasing number of connected devices entering the home, a battery can really help future-proof your house.

There are three main factors to consider when evaluating a battery’s suitability for your household:

  • Capacity and Usage: Firstly; how much excess energy does/will your rooftop solar generate on an average day? This is just as important for those interested in a solar and battery solution, as those who have an existing solar system installed and are interested in adding a battery. This amount will give you an idea of whether or not you’ll benefit from a battery, and what type (size) of battery you should purchase. In essence, you can’t sufficiently charge a 14kWh battery when your home generates 10kWh of excess energy during the day; in this case, a smaller battery like sonnenBatterie will deliver to your needs. Secondly; you’ll need to determine how much energy your home consumes in the evening, and compare how much available solar energy you have to store. Knowing how much energy is used during the night will give you an idea on how long a battery will last you, and the capacity required.   
  • Modular: Are you expecting your energy needs to grow over time? Then a more modular battery, like the LG Home Battery, would fit the bill. Sensible planning and close monitoring of energy usage can often clue homeowners in on the need for additional capacity in the future.
  • Emergency Back-Up: Does the battery have back up capability? Not all manufacturers and configurations do! If so, what is it going to power and for how long? When there is a black out, batteries with back up functionality will provide power to ‘essential circuits’ in the home. Examples of essential circuits include lighting and general power for your fridge. If you want your battery to act when there is a grid failure, so your home remains powered – you need to ensure it is black-out ready, this functionality can not be easily retro-fitted later.

Virtual Power Plants: what you need to know

The VPP is a new energy concept that pools available energy stored by home batteries, which is then used to send power back to the grid, to help stabilize the grid when needed. South Australia has been leading the charge, with multiple VPPs in operation, including the world’s largest. Tesla Energy Plan customers support South Australia’s energy needs by providing additional stability to the electricity grid, and in return for providing this support, customers receive a hardware discount.

Households that are interested in participating in a VPP gain access via Wi-Fi to connect their battery to an online cloud database run by their VPP operator (the electricity retailer). That operator uses software to identify and select batteries with excess energy, giving the owner advance notice before dispatching an aggregate amount to support the grid during momentary periods. All these connected batteries create a distributed pool of energy similar to that of a power plant.

Start with the right support

While a battery can help you manage your household’s solar energy generation for greater control and flexibility, it’s important to ensure that it is the right solution for you. This can be a complex process, as there are several battery manufacturers on the market whose products may be more suited to one use or another, as well as various feed-in tariffs and rebates available around Australia with varying eligibility constraints.

Understandably, the many considerations and technicalities involved in battery adoption could easily overwhelm the average homeowner. Fortunately, you don’t have to work things out on your own.

How does Clipsal Solar fit in to this?

Clipsal Solar is a Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited solar retailer, and we will analyse your household’s energy consumption and lifestyle to determine if a battery, along with enrolling to a VPP, is the best solution to help you save money and stay in control of your energy.

Beyond the initial consultation and installation, Clipsal Solar’s Pulse Analytics Kit uses sensor technology to continuously provide insights into how to save on electricity in your home (with or without a battery).

Real Time Data

If you have a battery installed, Pulse will include the battery’s level of charge in its analysis and tell you whether you could be running your house for free or even get paid for excess energy.

Battery

Battery Calculator

It’s becoming increasingly important to be self-reliant. If you already have solar and you’re interested in investing in a battery, the Pulse Analytics Kit crunches the numbers to work out the right battery for your home (if a battery is right for your home) based on your data, along with the preferred VPP energy plan to help you understand how much it would save you. Our customers can save as much as $683* per annum by adding a battery to their existing solar system, plus they have back-up power when they need it. 

Pulse is the only app that will track your solar savings compared to your investment so you can see when your solar system has paid for itself, and spend your money on something nicer than bills!

Pulse Analytics

South Australia is leading the charge in solar energy. Between government initiatives like the VPP, generous rebates, increasingly affordable battery options and sophisticated technology solutions, there has never been a more electrifying time for energy in Australia.

Clipsal Solar don’t make solar panels or storage batteries; nor do we take kickbacks from energy retailers to promote any products or plans. We only offer quality products, assessed by our solar experts, and set up by our Clean Energy Council certified installers. We are your independent advisor and energy partner for life. 

Get in touch for a free consultation.

*Savings based on actual data from South Australian homes using Clipsal Solar’s Pulse Analytics Kit, with 6.6kW solar system, grid supply 37c/kWh, feed-in tariff 16c/kWh, 13.5kWh battery, 64% solar exported to grid, postcode 5000. Study from 2020.   

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