How we're building a Grid for Good in Upper Clutha

Households will form a Virtual Power Plant providing New Zealand's first non-network solution for electricity supply

Residents in Upper Clutha have the opportunity to be part of groundbreaking innovation in the supply of electricity to the Upper Clutha region, and a first in New Zealand. 

solarZero will provide the means for households across the region to access electricity for their home by way of rooftop solar and a smart battery. The solarZero systems are connected, monitored and managed as a virtual power plant (VPP) to provide additional power supply to all residents in Upper Clutha, and help build a more resilient power network. 

solarZero is the only 'solar as a service' option in New Zealand, offering access to solar and low-priced grid energy for a fixed monthly fee and no upfront costs. 

This innovation centres on two key concepts - building a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) as a Non-Network Solution (NNS) for the supply of electricity in the region.  

What is a virtual power plant (VPP)?

A VPP is a network of solar and smart batteries that can be collectively controlled to help manage the electricity network. Globally VPP is cutting edge technology, and is part of the emerging trend in power supply in communities like Brooklyn/Queens in New York, Washington DC, California, Australia and Singapore, to name a few.

Each home that has a solarZero system is part of a VPP - connected via the batteries and smart control systems. Solar energy created in each home not only supplies power for that home, but also feeds excess back to the grid - this “virtual power plant” shares power generated within the local community to the wider community, ensuring electricity demand is carefully managed and continuous supply is achieved.

What’s different about a Non-network solution (NNS)?

A “non-network solution (NNS)” is a term used in the electricity industry to describe an electricity supply solution that doesn’t involve building new power lines to meet increasing electricity demand. In Upper Clutha this non-network solution (building a VPP through solarZero on homes) will help support the capacity and resilience of the electricity network meaning that an expensive network upgrade can be deferred.

As well as deferral of high cost network upgrades, a NNS can accommodate greater electricity demand flexibility for households, thereby delivering solutions in the best interests of communities and future growth in the region.

Addressing the issues: 

High peak demand

The Upper Clutha region is currently undergoing rapid growth in new housing developments to meet the rise in population. Peak electricity demand on the network is increasing as a result. 

solarZero systems that make up the VPP will operate to reduce morning and evening peak demand in the Upper Clutha area through a fleet of smart batteries, and in the future will support the network during short periods during the day, for example, to support maintenance on the network.

Infrastructure Costs 

Building and extending the lines and power poles within the region to meet demand requires capital investment, which ultimately is passed onto the consumer.  

A VPP using solar and battery systems lessens the demand on the network - deferring the need to make costly additions to existing infrastructure.  

This solution is a lower-cost alternative to building new network infrastructure and ensuring the increase to supply can meet not only current demand but future demand also.

Electricity supply reliability

A technical communication system within the VPP provides data, such as the amount of power supplied by the VPP and important data for network management, such as voltages across the network.  

This data will also provide insights into the performance of the solarZero systems in reducing household demand. An additional benefit of a VPP is that Aurora Energy gains a lot of information about the performance of the network. That information, such as voltage data, is provided by the smart solarZero battery. Having better information will help Aurora with network management, for example, quicker and more accurate identification of faults. 

How do households benefit?

Households benefit in many ways, most importantly:

  • Access to cheaper electricity from the solar and battery systems
  • Greater resilience during power outages - the backup supply in the battery, and the energy generated during daylight, keeps the lights and key appliances on
  • Reduced costs for network capacity across the whole community by deferring the upgrade of the powerlines into Wanaka and the Upper Clutha area

About solarZero

solarZero gives homeowners control over how their home is powered - streaming the sun’s energy and converting to usable electricity through state-of-the-art system hardware, smart management of solar and low-priced grid energy through the smart battery, as well as real-time monitoring to give insights and help energy efficiencies within the home.

With solarZero there is no upfront cost for the system hardware, users pay a fixed monthly fee for their energy consumption.  The hardware of the system remains the property of solarZero, who manage the installation, maintenance and servicing (while the homeowner enjoys the benefits without the investment).  

The solarZero system comprises solar panels and a smart Panasonic storage battery - allowing stored power to be accessed even when the sun isn’t shining. 

Want to learn more about solarZero and how your home can be part of Upper Clutha’s virtual power plant?

If you’re interested in learning more, contact solarZero on 0800 11 66 55 or email upperclutha@solarzero.co.nz and our team will be in touch.

Supporting local business

The installation of solarZero systems on homes will be contracted to local electrical companies.  As well as economic benefits for the local business community, working together to build a VPP in Upper Clutha will provide job and training opportunities.  

We are taking expressions of interest to assist with solarZero installations in the region now and expect high demand from residents, due to our no upfront costs offering, and power savings guarantee.

If you’d like to work with us, contact upperclutha@solarzero.co.nz

Read more about solarZero and the Virtual Power Plant project in Upper Clutha: