Flexible Export - what is it and why was NRG Solar involved in Australian-first trials?

October 20, 2022

An Australian First Trial

South Australia is leading the world in solar power generation, but this rapid growth in solar has created challenges in managing the state’s grid. SA Power Networks (SAPN) has introduced a new strategy to share the benefits of solar and ease grid instability in South Australia. Flexible (or Dynamic) Exports will be an opt-in program introduced for households in highly congested parts of the grid who are installing solar for the first time.

What are Flexible Exports?

In South Australia, our power infrastructure was built before renewables were an option, meaning our grid is susceptible to failure when too much solar energy is being fed into the grid at times of low energy demand.

The Flexible Exports program has been designed to support more solar on our grid and assist with network stability. The goal is to double the amount of solar on South Australia’s network by 2025.

State and Federal Governments have provided support to various agencies to help stabilise the grid and prevent blackouts. SAPN has used funding to accelerate the availability of the Flexible Exports option, and make it a standard service offering after the completion of the trial.

This is where the SAPN Flexible Exports program comes in. Under this program, customers can choose between a Flexible Export option or a flat Fixed Export option. The Flexible Export option allows customers to export up to 10kW of their unused solar energy back to the grid - this amount fluctuates depending on the needs and capacity of the network and inverters. The Fixed Export option allows households to export up to 1.5kW back to the grid.

How do Flexible Exports work?

With Flexible Exports, solar exports are automatically adjusted to maximise the amount of solar that can be connected and exported to the electricity grid, depending on the capacity of the local network. This benefits solar households as it allows customers to export the maximum amount their network can handle with a much greater cap of 10kW - this is an 100% increase on the 5kW cap currently in place for most households. Initial SAPN analysis shows that for 98% of the time flexible export limits will be 10kW, although outcomes will vary on the location of each household.

If you choose to opt for Fixed Exports, SAPN will not be able to manage how you export back to the grid, instead your capacity will be capped at 1.5kW.

Essentially, with Flexible Exports, SAPN will be adjusting solar exports automatically, in order to match the available capacity on the network and accommodate more solar on the network.

Flexible Exports will mean:

  • Greater exports into the network
  • Variable exports up to 10kW per phase
  • Safer and more reliable electricity supply
  • Allows more people to benefit from solar
  • World-leading technology
  • More renewable energy in SA!


Why do we need to introduce flexible solar exports?

South Australia is a global leader in the uptake of renewable energy. On the 21st of November 2021 over 100% of South Australia’s power came from renewables, and an amazing 92% of this came solely from rooftop solar. This was a world first. South Australia is leading the way in renewables as more and more households and businesses are making the switch to sustainable energy. However, this rapid growth comes with some complications.

In this particular event, 50% of substations were in reverse flow. Normally power plants supply energy from a single source, which makes it easy to monitor and control. With solar, the power is being drawn from a number of large solar farms and thousands of individual households  - around 280,000 or 35% of SA homes.  With the increase in two-way solar energy exports,  the power networks have very little control over how this power is produced, used or fed into the grid.

This is why we’re looking for new ways to better monitor and manage the state’s power supply.

Are solar batteries part of the solution?

Batteries are an increasingly important way to not only support the stabilisation of the SA’ power network but also to accelerate the yield on solar investments. 

Now, more than ever, batteries are a great investment for many homeowners for a number of reasons: 

  1. With the lowering of Feed-in-Tariffs, consumers are paid less for exporting excess solar to the grid. Adding a battery system to store that excess energy to use at night can help to eliminate your power bills for good. 
  2. Gain greater grid independence. With solar battery storage, you are your own power source and, with the added advantage of backup protection, you can protect your home from blackouts. 
  3. Greater insights into your power usage. . With the visibility monitoring apps give you, you can easily adapt your energy usage to increase your self-consumption to help you save more money, faster. 
  4. Solar battery systems will help you get closer to becoming a net-zero household!
Image: Solar Generation vs Energy Consumption Graph taken from Renew.

How did NRG Solar help SAPN with the Flexible Export trials?

NRG Solar partnered with SA Power Networks to become the first solar retailer in Australia to trial Flexible Exports for solar PV systems. SAPN and NRG Solar worked closely together to trial this solution for the South Australian market.

NRG Solar installed 3 x SwitchDin droplets on customers' homes who were happy to take part in this Australian first trial. This enabled SAPN to test the technology and installation process. The sites are still under testing. This testing has allowed NRG Solar to provide feedback to SAPN on the customer value proposition, installation training and support and the installer/installation journey.

Why did SAPN partner with NRG Solar to trial flexible exports?

“NRG Solar have been working closely with SA Power Networks on the Flexible Exports concept and implementation for several years through their active participation in SA Power Networks industry reference groups. NRG Solar were one of the first retailers that were happy to trial the concept in the real world. These early trial sites have been instrumental in enabling SA Power Networks and inverter technology providers to test the technology and customer and installer journey and make key refinements ahead offering Flexible Exports more broadly.” - SA Power Networks

With the goal of doubling the amount of solar accommodate on South Australia’s power network by 2025, Flexible Exports will empower households to make the most of their solar energy without overwhelming the grid. NRG Solar are proud to be a part of world-leading initiatives that move our world towards a more sustainable future!

Have a question about flexible exports? Call us on 1300 858 160.

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