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Carnarvon Distributed Energy Resources (DER) trials

Our ground-breaking research trial in Carnarvon, Western Australia will help us to better understand the effects of large numbers of PV and battery systems connected to the network.

Horizon Power has experienced considerable uptake of solar PV energy systems by its customers in regional Western Australia, particularly Carnarvon, over the past eight years; such that the levels of distributed generation on its networks are some of the highest in the country.

The energy industry is undergoing the most challenging transformation in its history right now.  The demand for rooftop solar is increasing, with our customers wanting more choice and control over their electricity use.

Horizon Power is committed to delivering sustainable energy solutions for the future, and this presents us with a challenge to meet increased demand with the current limit to how much renewables can be connected to the grid in geographically isolated towns. 

A high volume of renewables, particularly in a small town, can cause issues with the power supply.  We need to carefully manage the renewable energy connected to the grid to ensure it doesn’t impact the reliability of power supplies to all of our customers.

Hosting capacity targets (Distributed Energy Targets -DET) have been set by Horizon Power to ensure the use of PV installations does not negatively impact on the reliability of supply to customers in the town. The DET in Carnarvon was reached in late 2011. Since then, there have been many enquiries from the community about the availability of more hosting capacity in the town.

Horizon Power faces unique challenges in the renewable energy space due mainly to its large number of small microgrids, or non-interconnected electricity systems, and the inherent high cost of supply to regional towns. The smaller the system, the more vulnerable it is to high levels of solar installation.

The opportunity

Horizon Power’s System Blueprints have predicted that a high penetration of DER will be more a more economical method of delivering energy into the town than the traditional centralised generation supply model, particularly in high cost systems, in the short to medium term. Recent trends in DER and the availability of new products have highlighted the need to review Horizon Power’s policies for connection of renewable energy devices to its networks.

This project aims to resolve the technical, operational and transitional barriers to a high penetration DER business future. It also aims to leverage Horizon Power’s experience and pioneering use of distributed energy storage to build capabilities in the management and optimisation of high penetration renewable energy generation in remote microgrids.

Horizon Power is conducting ground-breaking research into the management of renewable energy generation and energy storage through these trials on our network in Carnarvon.

Held over three years, the Distributed Energy Resource (DER) trials will test distributed energy systems through a variety of behind-the-meter energy systems tests, with the aim of better understanding how to manage the variability of renewable energy and its impact on the network, and ultimately increasing PV system penetration throughout our remote networks.

Carnarvon has been selected as the location for these cutting-edge trials because the community has a long history of embracing innovation, with the first privately owned solar farm in Western Australia and record uptake of PV across homes and businesses.

The Carnarvon Distributed Energy Resources (DER) trials have achieved a key milestone, with the installation of solar PV and battery systems in participants' properties.

Ten trial participants recruited through the competition held in the town last year, have received a DER system consisting of solar panels, a solar inverter, battery and battery inverter, DER control technology and a Wattwatchers device so they can monitor their system performance. In addition six other trial participants on the Gibson feeder have received battery systems to augment their existing PV systems.

In return for the equipment they are giving us three years access to their system so that we can test DER visibility and control, how much of their renewable energy they use in their house, how they could use the battery to manage their peak demand and save money on their electricity bill and how we can communicate with their PV and battery system to achieve orchestration of these assets as part of network optimisation.

Each of the participants' systems is fitted with monitor and control technology that allows us to gather PV and battery performance data which we marry together with weather data, power station performance and network operation data.

Analysis of the data collected from the participant's DER systems is already providing valuable insight into the way fluctuations in solar PV generation is impacting on network operation. Researchers from Murdoch University's School of Engineering and Information Technology (our academic partners for the trials) are analysing the data and developing control strategies to better manage the PV and battery systems.

Carnarvon DER trials receives prestigious award - October 2019

The Carnarvon Distributed Energy Resource (DER) trials have been presented with a prestigious award at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Chile.

The joint Silver was awarded to Horizon Power and its project partner Murdoch University as part of the Energy Smart Communities Initiatives’ (ESCI) Best Practice Awards, in the category of Smart Grids. 

View the project team’s acceptance speech or watch the latest project update here.  


There are currently 116 Horizon Power customers in Carnarvon with a rooftop solar PV system. So far 82 customers have a Solar Smart Monitor device installed on their property which is helping us to monitor participants’ energy consumption to determine:

  • the amount of solar PV energy generated
  • the amount of solar energy consumed by the customer
  • the amount of conventional energy imported from the network, for any particular time of the day. The data acquisition forms an important part of building the data base of information that will be used for power system analysis during the work of the trials.

Separately metering PV from load from these 82 premises will uncover true load which has been masked by PV for the last decade and will provide high quality data that will show the effect of cloud events on individual systems and across the network.

Horizon Power has installed a sky camera and meteorological data station in Carnarvon to record cloud movements and weather data including: temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, solar insolation and barometric pressure. Solar smart monitor data from across the town is time-stamped and matched with sky-camera data, so that Horizon Power can understand the impact of cloud events and changes in weather on solar PV generation and its impact the network. Horizon Power will continue to recruit data acquisition participants until we have 90.

Above is a view from the sky camera showing one days’ worth of cloud movement compressed into a few minutes. The fish eye lens allows nearly 180 degrees of vision. The blurred areas on the periphery of the image are buildings that have been obscured so that when they are in full sunlight the software will not confuse them with clouds entering the field of vision.

The map above shows the installation of Solar Smart Monitors throughout the town, which provides us with a good geographic spread of data collection allowing us to map the movement of cloud events across the town and its impact firstly on renewable energy generation and secondly on the electricity system.

Horizon Power is conducting two DER monitor and control trials behind the customer meter. The first is monitor and control of PV, the second is monitor and control of energy storage.

These trials involve a combination of PV only and PV/Battery combo systems recruited to participate in the trials, with 13 residential customers on the Gibson Feeder and 5 residential/commercial customers in the wider Carnarvon district.

The participant DER systems will be fitted with monitor and control devices that allow us to gather PV and Battery performance metrics which we can marry together with the weather data, power station performance data and network operational data

All of the data is given a geospatial reference and curated into a custom co-incident set of time stamped data ready for machine learning analysis.

This activity received funding from ARENA as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Programme.


What are the Carnarvon DER trials?
Horizon Power is conducting a series of trials and experiments over the next three years involving the monitoring and control of solar photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage in Carnarvon to better understand the effects of large numbers of PV and battery systems connected to the network.

The trials aim to assess the technical and operational challenges  associated with a high-penetration of intermittent generation arising from Distributed Energy Resources (DER) ie PV and battery systems. 

The trial will help us to better understand how to monitor and control PV and battery systems and how we can offer improved products and services to customers and maximise the benefits they receive from their DER systems.

What technology is Horizon Power testing in the trials?
Horizon Power is testing energy data gathering, sky camera and forecasting systems, residential battery storage and inverters with remote monitoring and control devices.

What has prompted Horizon Power to conduct the trials now?
Horizon Power acknowledges our customers appetite for more control over their energy consumption and self-generation, and recognises the value of renewable energy. Horizon Power seeks to exploit advances in technology that are opening up new opportunities to build a cleaner, fairer and more efficient power system. These trials will test renewable energy generation control techniques that will allow Horizon Power to facilitate the uptake of  PV and batteries.

Why are the trials being staged in Carnarvon?
Carnarvon has always had a strong solar community at the forefront of PV uptake. The first privately owned solar farm in Australia still operates in Carnarvon. Horizon Power is seeking to engage that enthusiasm and put Carnarvon on the map again as a test for ground breaking research into the management of renewables and energy storage.

Will there be any increases in power bills as a result of the trials?
No. On the contrary, we expect participants to make savings on their electricity bill.

Will there be any increases in unscheduled power outages as a result of the trials?

Will any third parties be able to access information collected from the trial?
Information will only be accessible to industry partners who are working closely with Horizon Power and have entered into strict confidentiality agreements to ensure customer privacy.

Data collected from participants’ DER systems will be carefully analysed to develop control algorithms and integration techniques that can be used to better manage DER on our networks.

Will Horizon Power be conducting this trial in any other towns?
No. These trials are being exclusively run in Carnarvon.

When will the trials start and how long will it last?
The trials and customer engagement started in June 2017 and is scheduled to last for three years. The trials on the Gibson Street feeder (a select segment of the network) are likely to start in late 2018 depending on the availability of the necessary equipment and installers.

What is the benefit to customers who participate in the trial?
Participants will help Horizon Power to develop a model for increasing distributed energy targets for towns that have already reached their hosting capacity levels. Some participants will receive a free battery and or free inverter upgrade. Five lucky customers (3 residential and 2 business) will have the chance to win a PV/Battery and inverter system. Winners were selected from a competition held in the town.

Will customers be reimbursed for their participation in the trial?

Will participants incur any out of pocket expenses?
No. Horizon Power will meet all costs of alterations to the PV systems.


What is the Carnarvon DER PV and Energy Storage Monitor and Control trial and its purpose?
Horizon Power is conducting a series of trials and experiments over the next three years involving the monitoring and control of solar photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage in Carnarvon to better understand the effects of large numbers of PV and battery systems connected to the network.

The trials aim to overcome the technical and operational constraints associated with a high-penetration Distributed Energy Resource (DER) future to allow the increase of PV system penetration throughout our remote networks.

The trial will help us to better understand how to monitor and control PV and battery systems and how we can offer improved products and services to customers and maximise the benefits they receive from their DER systems.

Why have customers on the Gibson Street Feeder (select segment of the network) been selected to participate in the trial?
Horizon Power needs to demonstrate that higher penetration levels of renewable energy can be connected to its systems. In order to prove the technology, the trial must be concentrated within a small and contained area. The Gibson Feeder has been chosen due to its topology in the Carnarvon distribution network and high uptake of rooftop solar PV on the feeder.

What is the benefit to customers who participate in the trial?
The residential participants on the Gibson Street Network who already have a PV system will receive a battery system and under some conditions an upgraded PV inverter.

The competition winner participants will receive a free PV/battery system.

Because the trials will enable us to measure how much renewable energy your system produces and how much of your renewable energy you use in your home we will also be able to advise on how you can use your battery to save money on your bill.

What is required of trial participants?
Willingness to work with Horizon Power in these exciting trials, learn how to make use of the batteries and apps provided to you and be prepared to answer a few questionnaires along the way.

We will work with you over the term of the trial to ensure you are comfortable with how the system works and that you are getting the best possible value from it.

What brands of PV systems are Horizon Power installing for testing purposes?
We will be using a selection of Tier 1 products including Q-Cells PV Modules, SMA and Fronius Inverters and LG Chem Batteries.

What material are the batteries made out of?
The batteries are made from lithium.

What is a Reposit system?
A Reposit system is a device that connects to the battery and PV inverter, allowing the output of the inverter to be remotely monitored and controlled by Horizon Power. It offers additional customer centric features such as energy storage optimisation and energy efficiency advice through the Reposit phone or tablet App.

Do I get to choose which brand will be installed on my premise?
No - we will be sizing and selecting the PV/Battery system technology to fit the Horizon Power trial requirements.

What is the size of the system I am receiving?
For wider Carnarvon competition winners
A 3kW rooftop solar PV and 10 kWh battery system comprising a PV inverter, battery, battery inverter and other components.

For Gibson St competition winners
A 5kW rooftop solar PV and 10 kWh battery system comprising a PV inverter, battery, battery inverter and other components.

Can I increase the size of my PV system at a later date?
You will not be able to change the specification of the system during the trials. If at the end of the trials you would like to increase the size of your system, and sufficient distributed energy targets (formerly known as hosting capacity) are available, you can submit an application to Horizon Power seeking approval for additional capacity.  This will be assessed based on the Horizon Power Technical Requirements at the time of application.

If I receive a new DER system will I be eligible for REBS?
Yes –this will be applied for as part of the connection submission which Horizon Power is handling for you.

When will the equipment be installed?
Timing will be dependent on gaining Grid Connection approval and Building Permit approval. Once obtained, timing will be agreed with the home owner.

Who will be installing the equipment?
The equipment will be installed by a licensed electrical contractor on behalf of Horizon Power.

How long will the installation take?
Installation will typically take up to four days depending on the design of the system.  Installation will be done at a time that will be arranged with you.

Will the installer require access to the inside of my house (e.g. roof space)?
Potentially yes. The installer will also require access to your meter box and switchboard.

Will there be any disruptions to my power supply while the new device is being fitted?
In order to install the equipment safely, the electrical contractor/installer will have to turn your power off for a short period of time, this will be arranged with you

When will the trial start and how long will it last?
The trial period will commence from when you sign up to the trial and run for approximately three years.

Can I withdraw from the trial at any time?
Generally – no. You can withdraw from the trials with 7 days written notice if you sell your premises, and despite your best efforts, the new property owner is not willing to participate in the trials.

What happens if I sell my house during the trials? Are the new owners obligated to continue participating in the trial?
If you have received a free PV/Battery system or a system upgraded that includes a battery and sell your property within the terms of the trial, Horizon Power would ask that you use reasonable endeavours to encourage your purchaser to continue participating in the trial. If this is not achieved, the battery will be removed from the property before the time of sale whilst the PV system balance of equipment will remain.

What is the data acquisition component of the trials?
Horizon Power has recruited 60 customers with solar PV in order to monitor their energy consumption in order to determine: (i) the amount of solar PV penetration exported to the network and (ii) the amount of conventional penetration imported from the network, for any particular time of the day.

This data will allow Horizon Power to investigate the social, environmental and efficiency benefits of distributed energy resources (DER) on the conventional electricity network.

How many customers will be approached to participate in the trial?
Horizon Power will be inviting all 116 customers in Carnarvon who have solar PV on their rooftop to participate in the trial. We are aiming to recruit 90 of these customers into the trial.

What is expected of participants?
Once you have agreed to participate, Horizon Power will modify your existing electrical switch board to accommodate our Solar Smart monitor device. This is a small device (similar in size to a circuit breaker) that allows Horizon Power to measure energy flows in your home. You won’t be required to do anything. 

What is the benefit to customers who participate in the trial?
Participants will help Horizon Power to understand how it can configure its systems and work with customers to achieve the best social, environmental and efficiency benefits. The trial will help to ensure Horizon Power can innovate to overcome the technical barriers currently preventing us from increasing hosting capacity targets for towns that have already reached their hosting capacity levels. By volunteering your data for this research, you will be making a valuable contribution and making a difference for renewable energy levels in the future.

Will my data be kept anonymous?
Yes your data will be anonymous. No personally identifiable customer information will be made available outside of Horizon Power.

What is the Solar Smart Monitor?
The Solar Smart monitor device is a clever Australian invention that is used to measure energy flow in your house or business and provide you with information that can help you to lower your electricity bill. 

Will any modifications be made to my solar PV system if I agree to participate in the trial?
We will not be modifying your solar PV system; we will be installing a Solar Smart monitor device in your switchboard. The Solar Smart monitor device does not influence the operation of your PV system in any way.

Does the Solar Smart monitor device meet Australian Safety Standards? Has it undergone rigorous testing?
The Solar Smart monitor device will be wired to AS3000. The Solar Smart monitor device has undergone internal testing to ensure that it will be able to operate under high temperatures.

How long will Horizon Power collect my data?
Data will be collected over a period of three years.

What will Horizon Power do with the collected data?
The data will be collected and married with weather data, power station operational data and then used by Horizon Power and Murdoch University to improve network operation and increase network support from renewables.

How will the data be used?
Participants renewable energy generation meter data will be used to develop a concise picture of how solar PV changes the way our network operates, and helps to create a better way of integrating renewable energy into Horizon Power’s networks.

Will I be able to access my data?
It is anticipated that customers will be only able to access their data collected by Horizon Power.

Will I be able to see my real time data usage?
Yes. You will have access to the data. 

Get in touch

If you would like to learn more about the Carnarvon DER project, please contact us.

Get in touch