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More solar export for new SA customers

SA Power Networks is launching a new Flexible Exports option, in collaboration with the solar industry, to enable the export of up to 10kW from new solar customers’ solar panels. 

The Flexible Exports option is aligned with the SA Government’s Smarter Homes Regulations, which require all new solar installations to have dynamic (flexible) export limit capability. 

To manage the growing amount of solar, existing South Australian solar customers currently are limited to an export limit of 5kW.  

As network congestion from solar increases, some electricity distributors in other states have introduced reduced or zero export limits in some areas, and these soon will need to be introduced in some limited parts of Adelaide’s southern suburbs. 

SA Power Networks has been working with the sector to develop the Flexible Exports alternative with a limit up to 10kW. This will be offered to new or upgrading solar customers in some congested areas by mid-year, as an alternative to the option of a fixed lower export limit of 1.5kW per phase. 

Less than two per cent of new solar applicants in SA (ie about 800 customers) are likely to be in areas affected by this kind of network congestion. 

The proposal does not affect existing solar customers, or those connecting or upgrading their systems in a part of the network that is not congested – they will remain on the current limit of 5kW per phase. 

Mark Vincent, GM Strategy and Transformation at SA Power Networks, said, “Flexible Exports and other initiatives we are undertaking will mean more South Australians will have the opportunity to install solar and gain the benefits

“Obviously, the outcome for individual customers depends on a host of factors and customers should talk to their solar installer about the specific benefits.” 

Mr Vincent said decisions on where to introduce Flexible Exports would initially be based on local network and substation capacity.  

“At this stage a few localised areas serviced by substations in the southern suburbs are most likely to be involved, initially as part of an ARENA-funded trial (see next page). 

“However, over time, we plan to expand the service so that all customers can get access to flexible export limits if they wish.” 

Mike Stone, from the Clean Energy Council and Chair of the Solar Industry Reference Group, which is working with SA Power Networks on introducing Flexible Exports, said, “SA Power Networks has shown a genuine desire to continue to support the uptake of solar in South Australia.

“The Flexible Exports option is a lot smarter than imposing lower or zero fixed export limits in overloaded areas, as has happened interstate. In the long run it will mean more South Australians will be able to invest in and benefit from solar.”

There are three key benefits of Flexible Exports, which will help to: 

  • Maximise the number of customers able to install and benefit from solar  
  • Maintain a safe, reliable and affordable electricity supply 
  • Support achievement of South Australia’s renewable energy goals  

Some parts of South Australia’s electricity distribution network are reaching their maximum capacity to host solar exports. This is causing customer inverters to trip off or ramp down, and voltage issues for other  non-solar customers nearby. 

In some areas, reverse solar power flows are beginning to exceed the capacity of zone substations. Without mitigating action, this has the potential to overload or damage network equipment, which may lead to blackouts. 

The Flexible Exports option will provide customers with an export limit up to 10kW per phase, based on SA Power Networks’ assessment of network capacity in the area in which the customer is located. 

Modern internet-connected smart solar inverters will regularly receive export limits via the internet from SA Power Networks.  

For most of the time, this will mean customers have the opportunity to export more than they would on a lower fixed export limit, subject to the size of their unit and consumption patterns, even in highly overloaded parts of the network. 

Export limits will only be lowered periodically when necessary to avoid overloading the network and to help maintain a reliable electricity supply.  

SA Power Networks and Victorian-based AusNet Services have partnered with industry-leading inverter manufacturers, Fronius, SMA, and SolarEdge, and energy management software company SwitchDin to develop the technical capability needed to offer customers flexible rather than fixed export limits for solar. 

The project will refine and develop the associated technologies and customer connection service to the point where SA Power Networks intends flexible export limits will be offered in the future as a standard service to all customers installing solar.