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Ausgrid to trial standalone power systems to help get rural customers off the grid

Electricity distributor Ausgrid is searching for partners to offer standalone power systems (SAPs) based around solar and battery storage for customers who are looking to move off the grid. 

Ausgrid is issuing tenders after new rules came into effect, encouraging networks to take remote and regional customers off the grid, if they can guarantee improved onsite generation reliability and cost savings. 

The cost of expensive remote grid connections borne by all customers

remote house on a hill off-grid

While the notion of living off grid can seem romantic, the reality of the situation is that remote customers can be ridiculously expensive for electricity networks to serve. 

The reason is all down to the need to build and maintain poles and wires over long distances and often inhospitable terrain which is at risk of encroachment by vegetation as well as fire, storm and flooding risks.

The high cost of keeping these areas connected to the grid is shared by all network customers, so replacing poles and wires with smart, renewable energy and storage systems will bring costs down across the board. 

There are tens of thousands of potential electricity users who would be better off with a stand alone power system. When there are clusters of inhabitants, the systems could be expanded into a micro-grid.

Trials to start in Upper Hunter, Central Coast and Sutherland Shire

But Ausgrid is currently focusing on 10 customers per trial in a series of trials. These will be in regional areas including the Upper Hunter, Singleton, Cessnock, the Central Coast and even parts of Hornsby and Sutherland Shire in the greater Sydney Metropolitan area.

In its tender documents, Ausgrid demands that the SAPS should be able to deliver for customers using an average of 10kWh to 90kWh a day with systems based around solar and battery storage. 

Diesel back up generators will also be included, but the systems must be designed to ensure that these diesel generators do not run for more than 100 hours a year.

Ausgrid referred to one case study – a rural residential property located down “several kilometres of graded dirt road”, some 90 minutes from Muswellbrook in the upper Hunter – with electric hot water and a septic system. The trial is expected to begin next year.

Western Power is leading the way in Western Australia by cutting the wires to more than 100 customers, and more than 200kms of line. 

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