Australia is following the crowdsourcing trend that has characterized the last half-decade, pioneering the movement into a new industry: solar energy. Beginning this week, approximately 10,000 Australian homeowners can engage in a program testing an open market designed for the monetization of rooftop renewable energy and storage – the first in the world.
The idea came from a group of energy agencies, providers, startups and retailers – about 1.6 million Australians who own rooftop solar energy systems, which provides the infrastructure necessary to build a system like this. That is more than 15 percent of all roofs in Australia.
Thus, the Distributed Energy Exchange (deX) was created. The deX allows the owners of these solar panels to rent out their excess energy and the storage capacity of their batteries. Management of the system is also an innovation – it utilizes a network of smart devices which monitor the power distribution, automatically sending power where it is needed and compensating the owners accordingly.
Incentivizing participation in the exchange is necessary, and it makes use of an existing infrastructure rather than tackling the task of building a network from scratch.
The Australian government has backed this initiative for this reason. Although the individual units may seem miniscule when compared to the nationwide energy grids that are primarily used to manage allocation, a composite of these units can prove effective. Take, for instance, the Tesla Powerwall – a popular domestic unit intended for use by individual homeowners that can provide a mere 5 kilowatts of power. If 5,000 Powerwall owners chose to participate in the deX, 25 megawatts will be added to the grid.
As with all energy storage units, the goal is primarily to help match supply and demand of energy. Storing energy during periods of low usage will allow the grid to better cope with surges in demand. By virtually combining many small units, the deX has created what is effectively a large battery.
The greatest benefit from this trial is the integration of a decentralized energy market, as opposed to the centralized model that most developed nations use. This transformation allows for the integration of less traditional energy sources in that they provide additional storage units should they be needed. More importantly, the units allow the region in question to forgo the multibillion dollar costs that accompany energy network infrastructure projects and upgrades. Related: OPEC Lost $2 Trillion In Oil Price Slump
Virtual power plant trials have already been attempted in both Germany and in the US. However, both have failed to be implemented in a large-scale fashion. The same beginnings are found in the deX: initially, two trials in different location, each consisting approximately 5,000 households, will make up this testing period.
The leader of this movement is energy startup GreenSync, in collaboration with network operators (United Energy and AcetwAGL), an energy management startup (Reposit Power) and a new energy retailer (Mojo Power). Funding has come from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
GreenSync said on Thursday when they announced this exchange that a goal of the system is to drive investment in renewable energy, while also decreasing demand for multibillion dollar infrastructure projects that are underused anyway.
ARENA has said that the backing of these types of projects is vital for the future of renewable energy in both Australia and in the world.
By Michael McDonald
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