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Credit: Australian National University (Screenshot from video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRtd8ArvH_s)

Credit: Australian National University (Screenshot from video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRtd8ArvH_s)

Smart electricity technology developed at ANU successfully trialled in Tasmania

Last week, the Australian National University (ANU) announced in a press release that new smart electricity technology developed at the University has been successfully trialled in Tasmania.

The Network Aware Coordination (NAC) technology was used to manage the supply of renewable energy and battery storage from 40 homes on Tasmania's Bruny Island to the grid. The technology allowed household solar systems and household battery storage to work seamlessly with the electricity networks to help manage electricity supplies at times of peak demand.

Bruny Island is connected to the mainland through an undersea power supply cable. During holidays, it is difficult for the cable to cope with the increased power demand. With a modest investment, the researchers provided a solution to the problem while demonstrating a technology which could be used to coordinate thousands of batteries in the future.

Renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, are intermittent. Batteries are used to bridge the gaps in generation and to store the energy when production exceeds consumption and return energy to the grid when production falls below consumption, as supply must balance demand in electricity grids.

The NAC technology makes it easier to coordinate when renewable energy should be injected into the grid and when it should remain stored in household batteries.

It could help networks improve operations at normal times, reduce stress during times of peak demand, and remove the need for costly network upgrades over the long term.

The NAC ensures household energy data is kept private while helping negotiate the best price for the power when it is fed into the electricity grid.

Dr Dan Gordon, from the ANU Research School of Engineering, explained, “One of the great things about NAC is that it is a distributed algorithm. Each customer's system acts in their own best interest, and privacy is retained - yet we arrive at a solution which is better for everyone.”

Dr Gordon added that each customer's system performs relatively easy calculations, and the calculations do not get harder as more customers are added. The vision is that NAC could be scaled up to a large ecosystem of residential and distributed energy providers.

The system could be used across Australia to both improve electricity security and to drive down energy prices. Lead developer of the NAC, Dr Paul Scott from the ANU Research School of Computer Science, noted that successfully getting solar power and energy storage into homes would make the electricity grid more efficient, strengthen its reliability and also help bring energy prices down for consumers.

Project leader Professor Sylvie Thiébaux from the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science said the new NAC technology would lead the way in distributed optimisation of clean energy and would help enable mass deployment of renewable energy.

“Through the Bruny Island trial we have demonstrated how the NAC approach can solve wider grid problems, in particular those that can arise through the mass deployment of renewables and battery storage. This paves the way for a more intelligent way to operate our grids reliably, while collaborating with consumers to make the best use of the resources they are installing,” Professor Thiébaux said.

CONSORT Project

The NAC tests on Bruny Island were done in collaboration with the A$8 million CONSORT project (CONSumer energy systems providing cost-effective grid support), a collaboration between ANU, The University of SydneyThe University of Tasmania, electricity network TasNetworks, and Canberra-based Reposit Power.

In a video, Dr Lachlan Blackhall from the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program at ANU said that the goals of the CONSORT Project were to understand how customer-owned solar and battery systems could be used to effectively work together problems faced in the electricity system.

According to Dr Hedda Ransan-Cooper from the College of Engineering & Computer Science at ANU, the CONSORT Project is trying to bring about socio-technical change. It requires expertise and input from different disciplines and hence, the project brings together economists and social scientists with computer scientists.

The CONSORT project was recently named the 2018 Australian Energy Project of the Year by the Electrical Energy Society of Australia.

The Australian Government, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), is providing A$2.9 million towards the CONSORT project under its Research and Development Programme.

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