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Planet Ark Power’s solar grid solution could be the one we need

Planet Ark Power’s Executive Director Richard Romanowski pitching to the global energy transition forum at Startup Energy Transition Awards 2019

Brisbane-based clean energy company Planet Ark Power has just taken out an international award at the Startup Energy Transition Awards 2019 in Berlin for its grid-transforming solution.

The renewable energy technology and artificial intelligence organisation won the category of “intelligent grids, platforms and cyber security” at the event held by the German Energy Agency in cooperation with the World Energy Council.

The company is also earning local recognition – voted as the people’s top choice in the Innovation X-Change fish tank event at the University of Technology Sydney attended by The Fifth Estate earlier this week.

Up against six other Australian clean energy start-ups, the crowd was wooed by the company’s solution that’s paving the way for large-scale adoption of solar in the commercial and industrial sectors.

Planet Ark Power’s stakeholder relations & strategy Stephen Robertson, started the pitch by explaining why one of the most respected environmental names in the business, Planet Ark, has allowed the business to use its name: “because the technologies that we’re bringing to market will make a significant step change difference to the challenge of decarbonising the economy.”

What problem is the company solving?

The company’s founders have spent seven years trying to crack some of the biggest problems in the clean energy revolution, starting with the problem network providers are struggling with to adapt to increasing levels of distributed energy in the networks.

In response to increasing rates of rooftop solar being exported into networks, network operators are adopting a range of curtailment devices, policies and regulations.

Robertson says that it’s particularly harsh for commercial and industrial sectors, where “network providers pretty much don’t allow commercial, industrial and institutional building owners to export any surplus solar.”

“What this does is curtail investment in rooftop solar to a level that only meets the onsite needs of the commercial and industrial sector,” he says.

The company has built a device that solves the voltage problem from too much rooftop solar at once.

The device contains AI control software that manages and monitors voltage onsite in real time and can keep voltages within statutory limits at all times.

“It allows for large rooftop industrial, commercial and institutional sectors to be fully populated with rooftop solar with capacity to securely and safely transfer surplus solar into the grid.”

This is a “real game changer when it comes to providing clean, green renewable energy”

He says this is a “real game changer when it comes to providing clean, green renewable energy,” largely because the technology sits behind the meter and avoids investing billions in upgrading networks to cope with the influx of distributed energy.

It also means businesses and institutions like schools can actually make money by selling the excess solar, rather than just having enough solar to meet their own onsite needs.

The company is in growth mode

The company has spent the past few years proving that the technology works and is now rolling the solution out to a wider variety of industrial sites, Robertson says.

The company is now going through a growth phase and “looking to get the message out internationally.”

“What our technology allows for is much more efficient usage of existing infrastructure.”

“Typically at substation level, network operators cap solar at about 25 per cent capacity of a substation. Our technology, because it manages voltage in real time, allows for a 13 time increase in the capacity of networks to cope with additional feed in to the system at no cost to the grid or end-consumer.”

Other Australian energy innovators making waves

The fish tank won by Planet Ark Power was part of an event hosted by the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity, University for Sustainable Futures and RACE for 2030 CRC.

Six Australian start ups at various stages of maturity went head-to-head. Included on the line up was Solar Analytics, which provides software that presents real time energy consumption and solar production data to users through a dashboard on a computer or smartphone.

The platform allows people to get the most out of their solar systems, with around 52 per cent of panels underperforming at any point in time.

“We tell people when their solar is working, and if it’s not, we tell them what’s wrong and what to do about it,” Solar Analytics co-founder and chair Renate Egan said.

Solar Analytics is a subscription model that consumers pay $5 a month or $250 for a lifetime of energy monitoring, and since it started in 2013, has grown to a team of 30.

The company also recently introduced a new peer-to-peer trading platform that gives solar homeowners or businesses to select from a range of options for how they sell their surplus solar, and non-solar households to choose from who and at what price they want to buy this surplus solar.

The other energy innovators were: Redback Technologies, an affordable solar and storage provider; community energy trading platform Enosi; a provider of smart meter digital integration and real time apps called Powerpal; and WattWatchers, a digital energy platform focused on energy platforms and hardware.

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