This page explores the research behind the CONSORT project, and will serve as a repository for papers, data and other research resources.
A short explanatory video may be viewed here. It shows a simulation of how CONSORT would coordinate residential batteries to help solve network congestion problems during a peak event over the Easter holiday.
Australia’s high residential solar uptake is pushing its networks to their technical limits. Network service providers are faced with the choice of either limiting further uptake of renewables or undertaking costly network augmentation. Both options have a negative impact on consumers, who may prefer to leave the network altogether once low-cost energy storage is available. CONSORT is an ambitious multi-disciplinary Research & Development project which aims at resolving this deadlock by helping network service providers and consumers to work together constructively to meet their individual needs and reduce overall costs. CONSORT’s solution is centered around the utilisation of consumer owned battery systems for simultaneously providing value to their owners and support to the network.
Batteries can play several important roles. They can help consumers balance their consumption with the generation of their rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system, by storing excess solar energy and releasing it later as needed. Battery control software, such as the system provided by Reposit Power, can forecast household consumption and sun conditions, and decide when to store and release energy in order to optimally reduce the battery owner’s electricity bill. This is commonly called solar-shifting behind the meter.
Another important role of batteries, which is traditionally served by larger batteries installed by service providers on their network, is the ability to improve voltage levels, load flows and frequency across the network, and to rapidly respond to adverse events — again by storing and releasing energy where and when it is needed at various points during the day. This can avoid more costly network augmentation. CONSORT will combine these two roles, by using consumer battery systems not only to solar-shift to reduce consumer bills, but also to support the network. This is expected to unleash the full potential of residential battery systems, and will be a win-win senario for households, network service providers and renewable energy developers.
Why Is Research Needed?
This solution doesn’t come without significant research challenges.
First, we need to ensure that consumer PV-battery systems equipped with Reposit’s control system not only optimally meet household demand, but also help to provide the required support to the distribution network. This requires the coordination of a large number systems owned by self-interested consumers with private information in an uncertain environment, such that the result minimises costs while complying with the physical behaviour and limitations of the power network. Conventional methods for coordinating demand-side systems, such as direct load control and real-time pricing, are either too intrusive for consumers, create unanticipated new peaks in demand, or don’t scale when a large number of batteries is involved. CONSORT will further develop and demonstrate the “network-aware algorithms” invented at the Australian National University, which achieve the desired coordination and do not suffer from these drawbacks.
A second research question is how to fairly reward consumers for their investment and for the service their battery provides to the network. Consumers want reward structures to be fair, but also easily understandable and predictable. The University of Sydney has expertise in this area, and will develop reward structures that are suitable for network-aware coordination algorithms.
Thirdly, success ultimately depends on consumers accepting both the technology and the rewards. For this reason, CONSORT includes a social science research component, led by the University of Tasmania, which will investigate the response of Bruny Island households and provide valuable lessons for further development.
The Bruny Island Trial
Bruny Island was chosen to trial this new technology. Most of the island is served by an undersea power cable connected to Tasmania’s main grid. This cable becomes overloaded when demand peaks during holiday periods. To cope with peak demand, a mobile diesel generator is deployed to the island during these periods. The current reliance on diesel, and having to replace the undersea cable, are both expensive and undesirable options that can be avoided by supporting the network with an installation of residential battery systems operated using the technology developed by CONSORT. This also has the advantage of providing energy savings and an additional income stream for island residents.
CONSORT will therefore work with about 40 households to install batteries (and, in most cases, solar panels) equipped with battery controllers developed by Reposit Power. CONSORT will provide a large subsidy to householders to help buy and install the equipment. The CONSORT team will monitor data that comes from the installed technology and will talk to householders to see how the systems perform from the household point of view. As the trial progresses, the network-aware coordination algorithms and network support payment structures will be developed, trialled and refined.
For More Information
For a more detailed but relatively gentle introduction to the role of batteries in general and within the CONSORT project, as well as to the network-aware algorithms at the heart of CONSORT, see this paper by CONSORT project member Dr. Evan Franklin published in the ReNew magazine.
For a technical research paper on the network-aware algorithms that will be further developed by CONSORT, see this paper by CONSORT project members Paul Scott and Prof. Sylvie Thiebaux presented at the 2015 ACM e-energy Conference . This paper received the conference best paper award.