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Canberra businesses and homes trial 'world's largest virtual power plant'

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More than 250 Canberra businesses and homes banded together on Thursday afternoon to create the "world's largest virtual power plant".

The trial used new technology developed by Reposit Power to coordinate solar batteries installed across the territory in selling power back to the grid.

It took advantage of an ActewAGL offer to pay a feed-in tariff of $1 per kilowatt hour in times when there is a high demand for electricity - more than eight times the typical rate.

ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury described the initiative as "Canberra innovation at its best".

"More than 250 Canberra households and businesses are taking part in a trial that has the potential to help manage peak electricity demand, improve grid security and even avoid excessive investment in electricity infrastructure," he said.

"Battery storage is the next big thing in renewable energy because people can store energy captured from rooftop solar systems to then use it when it's most cost effective.

"Or, in the case of this trial, also provide support to the grid when it's under stress."

The panels used in the trial had been installed by Solarhub.

Solarhub chief executive Benn Masters said the benefits of the virtual power plant were twofold.

"The great thing about a virtual power plant compared to a centralised battery like the much-spruiked Tesla battery in South Australia, is that in addition to providing grid support, the household batteries also work to directly reduce the owners power bills every day," he said.

Mr Masters said connecting separate solar panels using the virtual plant created scale that generated greater benefits for owners. 

"When hundreds of batteries all work together in unison, this turns the tables with distributors and retailers being prepared to pay premium rates to access this dispatchable resource," he said.

"This puts the power and benefit squarely back in the homeowners' pockets."

The ACT government recently announced it would set aside $4 million worth of grants to subsidise the cost of installing solar battery storage in Canberra homes, despite less than half of the funds from the last two grant pools being used.

The grants are funded by the ACT's large-scale renewable energy projects and aim to encourage the rollout of around 36 megawatts of energy storage in up to 5000 Canberra homes and businesses over the next three years.

Eight providers are currently a part of the grants program, with the third round of funding likely to begin next year.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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