Virtual power to the people

Taelor PeluseyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Emma Morgan
Camera IconEmma Morgan Credit: Taelor Pelusey

Swiss sustainable investor SUSI has committed a staggering $12.5 million to fund WA’s first “virtual power plant”, soon rolling out in Dunsborough.

The Dunsborough Community Energy Project is the first 100 per cent privately funded plant of its kind in Australia and will see up to 1000 solar and battery systems installed in participants’ homes, then leased from the newly formed, not-for-profit group for a flat fee.

Perth-based Redback Energy has also signed on, providing the inverters, services and software to co-ordinate the plant, and donating $250 from every installation into the DCEP group’s community fund.

The project — kicking off as soon as 100 participants sign up — is expected to pump out 6.5MW at peak times, equating to about 9.5 gigawatt hours a year.

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It is projected to displace about 7kt of carbon emissions a year and ease pressure on the strained grid.

DCEP’s Emma Morgan said the model made sustainable energy consumption accessible, providing up to 90 per cent of households’ needs while removing the financial burden of equipment repairs and upgrades.

The group also hopes it will lead to a deal with Synergy and Western Power that would see the project supporting the grid at peak time, generating income to be put back into the community.

“By having a virtual power plant in the South West, or many virtual power plants, we’re actually taking a significant load off the grid,” Ms Morgan said.

SUSI has foreshadowed quadrupling its investment to $50 million to expand across the South West from Bunbury to Margaret River.

Ms Morgan was optimistic the scheme could be replicated further across regional WA.

“We’re looking at Geraldton and Albany — pretty much all the regional areas that really have the worst time with their energy,” she said.

Redback chief operating officer Mike Kilcullen said the plant would “democratise” energy.

Mr Kilcullen said he hoped by donating a big part of its margin, Redback would “encourage the uptake of this amazing opportunity and let our consumer clients feel good about their commitment to local energy and the community around them will benefit”.

In May, the McGowan Government announced it would commit $500,000 to develop a proposal for a virtual power plant trial in the Goldfields, but the Dunsborough model will be the first fully operational system.

Information nights will be held on October 1 at The Movement Fitness and Wellbeing from 6.30pm- 8.30pm and on October 2 at the Merchant and Marker from 6.30pm-8.30pm.

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