An electrical power quality event was held at the University of Wollongong in early March to mark the handover of the first EcoVAR unit developed by the Australian technology start-up EcoJoule Energy to Endeavour Energy for field trials and to the Australian Power Quality and Reliability Centre at UOW for laboratory evaluation. 

Ty Christopher, the General Manager of Network Assets at Endeavour Energy accepted the first EcoVAR unit and spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities that Endeavour Energy saw for the EcoVAR unit working on its grid to assist in reducing the energy costs to its customers.

Standing from left: Ty Christopher, Dr Mike Wishart (EcoVAR inventor) and Professor Sarath Perera

An EcoVAR is a Low Voltage STATic COMpensator (STATCOM) that helps utilities manage the voltage on low voltage electricity supply networks particularly in the presence of large amounts of renewable generation.  It does this by sinking and sourcing reactive power and does not require batteries or energy storage.

“It’s like a big shock absorber on the network that allows it to stabilise the inputs that are now coming from two different directions and keep the supply stable at the individual street level,” Mr Christopher said. “It therefore means that more solar can connect and, as it connects, it doesn’t have a negative impact on any other customers on the network.”

The University’s world-class facilities, including the Australian Power Quality and Reliability Centre (APQRC) and the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC), will be at the forefront of trials for the EcoVAR unit technology. The Director of the Australian Power Quality Reliability Centre, Prof Sarath Perera thanked Endeavour Energy and Ecojoule and said “the performance testing that will be undertaken here at the University of Wollongong will provide a comprehensive understanding of the capabilities of the EcoVAR device across a wide range of operating conditions. Such testing is only achievable due to the world class testing and measurement capabilities that resides here.

The guest of honour, Grant King, President of the Business Council of Australia and former CEO of Origin Energy also delivered a highly supportive address – reminding us that the electricity grid is the largest machine in the world and now, through solar power and other renewables, it is being asked to deliver energy in ways for which it was not designed.

EcoVAR will assist in resolving the issues of variable power delivery in the grid and help those with solar panels to maximise their input into the grid. This will allow owners of solar generators to lower their power bills and will provide the opportunity to further increase the amount of renewable energy connecting to  the grid.