In our current electricity system, the demand for electricity changes throughout the year, and fossil fuel power plants adjust their output to keep the system working. The demand often spikes up during summer, when all the air-conditioners are operating. The additional electricity demand from these air-conditioners is usually met by backup power plants. However, these backup plants are only feasible to operate when the market price for electricity generation goes beyond a certain level. This is because they only operate occasionally and they rely on these few hours of peak price events to make as much revenue as possible. The typical price for electricity generation is below $100/MWh, which can be pushed up to a capped price of $15,000/MWh during peak periods. This is more than 100x the average price. As a result, these back up power plants can make millions of dollars in just a few hours to ensure there’s sufficient electricity supply during periods of peak demand in the grid.
Fig1: Example peak price event in Victoria (Source: AEMO)
A more cost-effective solution to provide these backup power during peak events is through the use of Virtual Power Plants (VPPs). A residential household or apartment building with battery storage can sign up for a VPP, which allows the VPP operator to tap into the excess energy stored inside your battery to be discharged back into the grid during peak events. As the VPP operator aggregates this excess energy from thousands of participating batteries, it forms a “virtual power plant”. These battery systems are coordinated remotely by a central control software system run by the VPP operator. The VPP can bid in the energy market at a much lower price in comparison with the backup fossil fuel plants, lowering the costs for all consumers. The revenue generated will be shared between the operator and participants of the VPP.
A VPP can be used to generate earnings from the spot price energy market, as well as providing services to stabilise the grid, known as Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS). The power system requires the supply and demand of electricity to be in balance in order to operate safely. If there is a variation in supply without a corresponding variation in demand, this can lead to grid instability, or at extreme levels, blackouts. Put simply, FCAS provides a fast injection of energy, or fast reduction of energy, to manage supply and demand. This service is traditionally provided by fossil fuel generators such as coal and gas plants. However, the use of batteries is a lot more suitable as they can discharge energy into grid in seconds, in comparison with the traditional gas plants which can take minutes (e.g. takes time to burn more gas to increase energy output). As more and more renewable energy generation is integrated into the electricity grid, there is expected to be more variability as these power sources are weather dependant. The use of VPP’s will become an important part of the grid in the future to provide an alternative for FCAS services and allow for more renewable supply in the grid.
Fig.2: Balance of Supply and Demand for Energy
Due to the success of a VPP pilot in South Australia, there are now a large number of VPP offerings available in New South Wales. The link below provide further details on the available programs offered by different VPP operators. (https://www.aemc.gov.au/news-centre/data-portal/retail-energy-competition-review-2020/vpp-offers-available).
Over 2 million rooftops in Australia have solar panels, representing over 22% of residential houses. However, if you are an owner of a townhouse or individual apartment in a low-rise strata scheme you have most likely been locked out of the solar revolution. Less than 0.6% of residential strata buildings in Australia have solar panels today.
We are all busy stocking up, reading news and battening down the hatches, so this will be short.
Over the past 5 years, there has been a significant change in technology with "smarter" devices now being installed into apartment blocks. More equipment is using sensors, connecting to the internet and providing real-time monitoring information back to strata committees to help them better manage their buildings. In this point of view, 10 of these "smart building" technologies are examined.
There are rules about the lighting for carpark exits in strata buildings. Many apartment blocks are NOT compliant from a safety perspective and paying far too often to fix roller doors and gates which are hit by exiting vehicles.
Over the past 11 years there have been a number of residential apartment blocks which have taken the sustainability retrofit challenge seriously....really seriously.
Wattblock assisted North Sydney Council with their Futureproofing Apartments program which engaged 40 residential strata schemes on renewable energy, energy efficiency and NABERS for Apartment Buildings ratings in a 4 month period.
21.6% of residential houses in Australia now have solar panels but residential strata schemes housing 2.2m Australians have not yet joined the solar revolution. This whitepaper is designed to assist non-technical strata committee members navigate the renewable energy journey.
City of Sydney: Electric Vehicle Charging in Apartment Buildings
City of Sydney grant funded study released 26th July 2018 includes national survey results from over 130 strata schemes and 20 case study assessments.
Sponsored by City of Sydney and presented by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, "Generation W" took home the Strata Community Environmental and Engagement Award.
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