Hybrid Systems Australia Secures WA Schools VPP Project Slice

Hybrid Systems Australia will be installing four fairly chunky solar and battery setups for a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) pilot project in Western Australia.

Synergy and WA’s McGowan Government have been working on an initiative involving solar and/or batteries and VPP technology for a bunch of schools across the state’s South-West Interconnected System (SWIS).

A VPP is basically a network of distributed energy resources co-ordinated by a central operator. Combined, the systems can act as a single power plant to dispatch energy into the grid as needed and other services. For example, the batteries in the VPP may also be directed to charge when grid demand is so low it threatens network stability.

Originally to include 10 schools, the WA Schools VPP Pilot Project was subsequently expanded to 17 and is now in its second round. Pacific Energy subsidiary Hybrid Systems Australia has been tapped by Synergy to install solar–battery systems at four schools in Western Australia’s Mid West:

  • Champion Bay Senior High School
  • Geraldton Senior High School
  • Waggrakine Primary School
  • Kalbarri District High School

The installations ranging from 40kW to 100kW of solar panel capacity and 200kWh to 400kWh of battery storage are expected to be operational by the end of this year.

Among the aims of the Schools VPP Pilot Project is to determine how VPP technology can help participating schools better manage their electricity consumption. The bigger picture is investigating the potential to help make local grids more stable and reliable, and as Hybrid Systems Australia’s Executive Director Mike Hall says:

“The Schools Virtual Power Plant pilot will play a key role in orchestrating renewable energy sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously helping the energy sector find new ways to reduce our reliance on fossil-fuel generation and large-scale assets.”

Another bonus of the program for participating schools is the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities for students; perhaps sparking interest among some in pursuing renewable energy careers.

More information on the Schools VPP Pilot Project can be found here.

This isn’t the first time Hybrid Systems Australia has carried out a project for Synergy involving energy storage. In 2021, the company built and installed a 576kW / 344kWh battery and control system for the gentailer at Coral Bay, WA.

VPP Programs For (Some Of) The Rest Of Us

It’s not just schools getting in on the VPP scene, and not only in Western Australia. Virtual Power Plants have been popping up in various states and territories, offering incentives to solar households such as discounts on the cost of a home battery, a much higher solar feed-in tariff – or in some cases, both.

If this sounds pretty good to you, it’s worth first learning about the pros and cons of virtual power plants as you’ll be giving a third party control over your battery. Assuming you’re still keen to explore the opportunity further, check out what’s available across Australia on SQ’s VPP comparison page – we currently have 19 programs listed and the table is updated regularly.

Among the programs listed is the Tesla VPP. On a related note, last month Tesla claimed a win after a severe weather event in South Australia in November resulted in the state disconnecting from the NEM (National Electricity Market).

“Over 4,000 homes with Powerwall connected to Tesla’s Virtual Power Plants reacted within seconds to maintain grid stability across the state while keeping their homes powered.”

To “help” maintain grid stability would be more accurate, but anyhow.

While there were still a bunch of blackouts in various locations, Tesla said battery storage played a significant role in helping to avoid a more widespread event – such as what occurred in 2016 when approximately 850,000 South Australian customers lost electricity supply.

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