This con­tent has been writ­ten col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly by the Project Part­ners of Alice Springs Future Grid, led by the Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy. Please sub­mit your ques­tions, which will be answered in due course and shared on this plat­form if rel­e­vant and appro­pri­ate. You will be noti­fied via email when the answer is post­ed. Terms and con­di­tions are detailed on the sub­mit a ques­tion page. Fur­ther FAQs specif­i­cal­ly about the Solar Con­nect Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant tri­al are addressed in this doc­u­ment

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When and how will I receive my sign-up bonus payment?

Bonuses are available for participants that are successfully enrolled in the VPP and that signed up as per the conditions of the relevant bonus offer. These will be paid in the form of a voucher with an assigned value and will be issued at the final sign-up stage, when your house is active in the VPP and the trial has commenced. For more details see the Solar Connect Terms and Conditions (found in website footer).

What is the Solar Connect VPP trial?

Solar Con­nect is a town-wide solar and bat­tery tri­al link­ing house­holds via a Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant (VPP). House­holds in the VPP will share solar and bat­tery pow­er in ways that ben­e­fit the Alice Springs grid and form the next gen­er­a­tion of more sus­tain­able ener­gy solutions.

What is a VPP?

A Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant (VPP) is typ­i­cal­ly a col­lec­tion of solar and bat­tery stor­age sys­tems that work togeth­er to allow coordinated control of their energy.

VPPs use smart technology to control the energy flow to and from the grid on demand – benefitting the household, grid and the community.

Why is a VPP part of the Future Grid project? And why should I join it, as opposed to just having my own solar panels and battery?

A VPP provides an opportunity to optimise the use of existing grid infrastructure at both a household level and at a network level. The VPP in Alice Springs, known as Solar Connect, is inviting households with rooftop solar and a battery to join. The results and data generated by Solar Connect will inform what future trials may look like. There’s no obligation to join the VPP, however it’s likely in the future that if you want to install a solar system and battery, mechanisms will be needed to determine how you contribute to the shared costs associated with running the power system. In the same way that regardless of the extent to which you use water, there is still a cost to supply water to your house.

What will happen during the Solar Connect VPP trial?

During the trial you’ll have access to an energy monitoring app, giving you greater visibility over your energy use.

You will also receive monthly updates on your household’s performance in the VPP from Jacana Energy, an Alice Springs Future Grid project partner. A quarterly update which will show the performance of the VPP itself will also be provided, so you can see how your participation fits into the bigger picture.

Future Grid’s Community Engagement team at ALEC will be in touch from time to time with surveys, updates and details of events and other opportunities.

What happens after the Solar Connect trial ends?

After the Solar Connect trial ends, the Alice Springs Future Grid project will share its findings through various knowledge sharing opportunities and on its website.

If the VPP continues, Future Grid will inform participants and they can choose to remain on the VPP or decide to leave.

Participants on the Supersize Solar element of the trial will retain a static export limit.

What is the timeline for the Solar Connect VPP trial?

The trial is planned to commence in early 2022 and is expected to run for 12 months.

Why is the Solar Connect VPP trial necessary?

Alice Springs Future Grid is creating the North­ern Territory’s first res­i­den­tial Vir­tual Pow­er Plant (VPP). The tri­al will look at how a VPP can help keep the grid stable while increas­ing the amount of clean ener­gy in the Alice Springs power system.

The VPP is part of a suite of innovative trials, models and investigations that will help keep the Alice Springs network within voltage limits, reduce the reliance on gas power generation, and help us to reach 50% renewable energy by 2030.

What will happen to my premium feed-in tariff if I sign up to the Solar Connect trial?

As per the Northern Territory Government’s advice when the feed-in tariff was updated in April 2020, anyone who upgrades their system will be transferred to the standard FiT which, at the time of writing, is 9.13c kWh (GST Inclusive).

From July 1 2022, those who have been on the Premium FiT for four years will transfer to the standard FiT.

Participants who have a battery will have already transferred to the standard tariff, and will be invited to opt for a variable (7-11) trial tariff if that is their preference.

Participation in the Solar-Only trial may or may not require system upgrades. Your FiT will therefore depend on what needs to happen to enable your participation in the VPP.

As upgrades to ageing solar systems will be required eventually, the VPP may represent a good opportunity to take advantage of the sign-up bonus and VPP credit. However, it is recommended that you seek independent advice to choose the best value solution for your household.

Do gas generators need to stay operating regardless of whether there's "too much solar" in the system?

While this statement is an oversimplification of the process, it is true that at certain times of day and during certain periods of the year, not all the solar power being generated can be used by the grid. The Alice Springs electricity system is heavily reliant upon gas generation – not only for power, but also to provide essential system services (ESS) such as voltage control, frequency, and inertia. These services can be provided by technical solutions like batteries, but at this stage this is a prohibitively expensive means of addressing the problem in its entirety. The aim of the Future Grid Solar Connect Virtual Power Plant (VPP) trial is to investigate how new smart solutions such as VPPs can help manage and use the renewable energy being delivered into the grid while also providing network services.

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