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Virtual power plant technology on trial in NSW schools

Virtual power plant technology on trial in NSW schools



Sixty public schools in New South Wales (NSW) have been identified to participate in Australia’s largest school-based trial of rooftop solar PV, battery energy storage systems and Virtual Power Plant (VPP) technology.

The NSW government announced this week the first stage of its Smart Energy Schools Pilot Project had commenced. The program will see participating schools explore the use of solar PV panels and batteries to generate electricity for themselves and create enough to supply renewable energy to the state’s grid.

The pilot program is the largest of its kind in Australia with about 4,600 solar panels and 3.2MWh of battery energy storage capacity being installed at participating schools. A VPP trial, using smart software to manage the charging and discharging of energy storage systems across multiple schools will also be conducted as part of the program.

The state government said about 15MW of solar has already been installed at 1,500 NSW public schools but changes in technology have created opportunities for electricity customers to participate in new energy markets by storing and trading energy and other services.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said the Smart Energy Schools Pilot Project will test the most efficient and effective way for schools to take part in this exciting transition.

“We now have 60 schools testing the most effective ways to harness and deploy renewable energy back to the electricity grid,” she said.

“We have over eight million square metres of NSW public schools roof spaces and we are looking at how we can utilise this space to reduce electricity costs and improve the environment.”

The pilot project will be rolled out in two stages, with participating schools receiving new or extra solar and battery energy storage systems.

The first stage of the project will test whether school-based solar and battery storage systems can help reduce demand on the electricity system associated with air conditioning. It will also test whether solar and battery storage can be used to avoid costly upgrades to the electricity grid.

Schools in the second stage of the project were selected based on their suitability to combine solar and battery systems as part of a VPP.

The solar, batteries and VPP systems are now being installed in the schools, with the installations expected to be complete by the middle of the year. The VPP trial is expected to begin by July 2022.

NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean said the trial will help the state government meet its commitment of net zero emissions by 2050.

“We know that solar is one of the best ways to slash the state’s energy bill and emissions,” he said. “Adding cloud-based virtual power plant software means that energy generated on site can be used, stored or shared with other schools or homes via the electricity grid.”

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