Vir­tual power could ex­pand

Manjimup-Bridgetown Times - - News - Taelor Pelusey

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.

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