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AEMO set to trial wind farm’s ability to stabilise S.A. grid

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An Australia-first trial to demonstrate the ability of wind farms to provide crucial grid stabilising services traditionally supplied by “baseload” coal and gas plants, is now set to begin in October.

The South Australia-based trial, first flagged in February, and originally scheduled for June, will use the recently completed 100MW Hornsdale 2 wind farm, by French renewables developer Neoen, who has put $300,000 towards the trial, alongside another $300,000 from ARENA.

Hornsdale square

The trial, which is being conducted in conjunction with the Australian Energy Market Operator, will test the ability of Hornsdale 2 to provide frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) – a critical component of grid security that is traded on the NEM while remotely controlled by AEMO.

This will be followed by a NEM trial, which will run for 48 hours to test Hornsdale’s ability to fully participate in the electricity and FCAS markets.

The wind farm is also the location of the Tesla big battery, with a total of 100MW/129MWh of Tesla Powerpacks to be installed by December 1, to provide both fast response services in case of a network fault, and to time shift wind capacity and help meet peak demand periods.

This will allow AEMO to assess modifications to wind forecasting, bidding and energy management systems to support on-going provision of FCAS from Australia’s grid-connected wind and solar farms.

The trial holds particular importance in the Australian market, where FCAS has traditionally been provided by coal and gas plants. Currently, in SA, only a few gas generators provide FCAS, leading to massive price spikes when the service is called upon.

Indeed, many insist that only “synchronous” fossil fuel generators can provide this so-called “inertia” to the grid – a myth that has been used to justify calls for new coal and gas power capacity to be built in Australia as more variable renewable energy is brought online.

But AEMO believes that encouraging wind farms to provide FCAS will add more fuel choice to the narrow market, and lower prices.

And both AEMO and ARENA – and undoubtedly, Neoen, and other renewable energy developers – hope it will test the NEM’s ability to fully integrate renewables and further facilitate Australia’s transition towards a grid powered mostly, and eventually completely, by renewable energy.

“This is an opportunity to enable wind and solar generators to fully participate in the NEM and add to system stability in addition to generation,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said in comments on Thursday.

“The evolving generation mix in the NEM is changing the way AEMO operates both the grid and market. This trial will enable us to test new and emerging technologies that could supply services the market will need in future,” said AEMO CEO Audrey Zibelman.

“AEMO supports and encourages a framework for new technologies that ensures power system security yet continues to encourage competition. This trial is an essential step towards a more efficient and competitive FCAS market that ultimately benefits consumers,” she said.

Neoen Australia managing director, Franck Woitiez, said the partnership signals the shift towards a more sustainable Australia focused on exploring future energy supply services.

“South Australia in particular is leading the charge to secure a more sustainable energy future so we’re proud to be working with ARENA and AEMO on this trial at our Hornsdale Stage 2 Wind Farm.

“This project will show the potential of renewable resources like solar and wind power to provide Australia with controllable, clean energy that can keep pace with future demand,” Woitiez said.  

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  • Cooma Doug

    I am looking forward to the tests and the analysis that follows.
    I was on shift when the very first FCAS market was trialed.
    It was stunning for us as there were some computer problems and some numbers were not crunched well. The prices went through the roof. We couldn’t understand what was going on. We were being paid millions an hour for just being ready to do stuff……in theory that is, as it was a test. It wasn’t working well and i recall we had to intervene a few times to keep things stable. But much was learnt from this test.
    The follow up was quick and the FCAS market was up and running well in a short time.

    After this impending test the numbers will create an awareness of where we are heading and will tick some boxes in the market rule change plans. This is serious stuff coming for the Snowy 2 plan and the future of SA energy.

  • Interested 1

    Is everyone talking about the same thing? Real inertia is required to safely clear faults on lines by generating large current on small reduction in frequency. Fast frequency response is not the same thing. The inverter electronics cannot deliver the high currents that a synchronous rotating machine, with its flywheel-effect, can. The provision of synchronous condensors alongside the invertors is a technical solution but wind/solar developers understandably prefer not to pay for them.

    The network services providers might be interested, but they are not philantrophists. The cost just gets added to their Regulated Asset base and all users pay. And because of impedance in the network it might not work as well.

    “Not as good but it’ll cost you more!” is becoming an ongoing theme in the energy market.

    A bit more informed regulation is required, and a lot less political spin.