Virtual power could expand
The Swiss investment firm bankrolling WA’s first virtual power plant in Dunsborough says it will fund duplicates of the model in any willing South West city or town.
Financial backer SUSI Partners AG has been closely eyeing sustainable investment infrastructure opportunities in Australia and recently committed $12.5 million to the Dunsborough Community Energy Project.
The announcement triggered interest from residents right across the South West, prompting the investment firm to expand its scope and lift the cap on funding.
Potentially thousands of solar PV and battery systems would be installed in households, connected and remotely controlled through software — forming virtual power plants. A not-for-profit association would be formed around each plant to collect weekly lease fees from households that would pay SUSI back over a 10-year period.
After SUSI recoups its investment, profits would then be pumped into a community fund — boosted by business partner Redback Energy’s $250 contributions for every installation — and the plant would become a communityowned asset.
DCEP lead activator Emma Morgan said all sign-ons would need to happen in 2019 so SUSI could exit by 2029. Earlier this month, SUSI closed its first investment in Australia — a 34MW solar PV plant in Middlemount, Queensland.
With a presence now on each coast, the group is keen to expand.
“We have just acquired our first project in Australia and we are looking to expand our local presence with further investments in the region,” SUSI Partners AG vice president Matteo Zanni said.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to structure this project, enabling a scalable model in which communities take an active role in reducing their carbon footprints and obtain economic benefits.”
A 1000-capacity system is expected to pump out 6.5MW at peak times, equating to about 7.6 gigawatt hours a year, and is projected to displace about 7kt of carbon emissions a year and ease pressure on the strained grid.
Similar plants on the east coast also operate as retailers, pushing and pulling energy from batteries to the grid, but WA legislation does not yet allow this.
Despite this, Redback is confident the plants would still provide a service to the grid by easing demand at peak times and would seek to strike a deal with energy providers.