With Western Australia one of the most sun-drenched spots in the world, it’s no surprise nearly one in three households have a solar system installed, though the cost-saving measure has led to another problem.
The key issue is that most solar systems are not connected to batteries or ‘smart devices’ that allow for the remote management of fluctuations (with batteries being the best example of a technology that enables this). These uncontrolled or unmanaged systems are commonly referred to as ‘dumb solar’ and can jeopardise the stability of the grid.
This is where smart solar – solar panels connected to a storage battery – comes in.
Smart Solar – what’s that all about?
With smart solar, residences are able to draw directly from solar panels then divert to fill the battery, making households far less reliant on the traditional grid and the grid less impacted by the natural surges of energy that come from solar systems on a cloudy day.
Taking it a step further, energy storage provider Plico Energy offers the opportunity to enter its Virtual Power Plant (VPP), a network of solar panels and battery systems working together to generate and store energy.
Plico manages all approvals, rebates and admin associated with installing solar/battery on your property provides ongoing service and maintenance for the life of the contract. As the aggregator of thousands of residential ‘smart solar’ systems, Plico can then provide services to the grid and share any revenue back with member households.
This allows homeowners to create up to 90 percent of their own renewable energy, for $36.50 a week as well as being part of the solution to the challenges of traditional solar.
“The problems with the current system is when we put a bunch of dumb solar into the grid, it has consequences most people don’t recognise, and they are catching up with us now,” Plico Energy Founder Brian Innes said.
“Plico has built a business model to embrace what we knew three years ago was coming. We are a bunch of energy geeks and built a business model that enables the future of the energy system which is distributed, managed and professionally run.
“Everything we are doing is about providing that service, it removes a burden and also adds value back from a householder’s investment.”
The VPP represents a new movement in energy ownership, Mr Innes said.
“We are democratising our energy infrastructure like it has never been done before. We are shifting ownership from the few to the many, and that brings a whole new industry.”
The service-based system means homeowners don’t need to worry about losing out on their investment.
“Most people worry if they are going to be in a house for over five years,” Mr Innes said.
“People move, things happen, so making a big $20,000 investment in solar and hoping you will get your money back in six-seven years doesn’t make sense.
But signing up with Plico, if you move in three years you just transfer the contract.”
Working From Home?
With plenty of people working from home over the past few months, discussion on energy usage has increased, and for a business wanting to make a difference, supporting employees to transition to a Plico system might be a good option, according to Mr Innes.
“This helps your employees manage – and potentially save – on their energy bills and ensures that they can stay online even in a blackout,” he said.
“The cost to you is $36.50/employee (Fringe Benefits Tax may apply) but the benefit to them and to the environment is much more valuable. Transitioning your staff to a Plico system can positively offset your environmental scorecard.
“Shareholders and customers are becoming increasingly selective about using companies that can demonstrate a proactive approach to the environment – and this is an easy win that makes a tangible impact.”
This article was published in “The West Australian” WA Renewable Energy Feature September 25 2020.