ARENA offers $7m for more solar and wind farm FCAS trials

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has announced funding of $7 million to encourage more wind farms, solar parks and battery installations to trial the provision of grid security services as the share of renewables continues to grow.

These grid services – such as frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS), fast frequency response (FFR) and inertia – have traditionally been provided conventional synchronous generation.

But grid managers are now turning to renewables and batteries to fill in the gap created by the increasing share of renewable energy and retirements of coal and gas plants.

Already, South Australia has seen the new Tesla big battery – known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve – grab a significant share of the local FCAS market, puncturing price spikes orchestrated by the local gas cartel and delivering significant savings.

The intervention of the Tesla battery has been praised by the Australian Energy Market Operator both for the speed of its response, and its greater accuracy than conventional generators.

Trials have also been successfully completed at the neighbouring Hornsdale wind farm, which also showed that wind farms can provide cheaper and more accurate services than gas generators, and more trials are occurring at the Musselroe wind farm in Tasmania.

The latest ARENA funding initiative will encourage more wind and solar parks to provide those services, in turn helping pave the way for more renewables to join the grid.

“System security has been a key focus of industry regulators, the market operator and participants. It was also the priority of the Finkel Review,” CEO Ivor Frischknecht said in a statement.

“As our electricity system transforms from a system of centralised synchronous generators to more diversified generation that includes more and more renewables, we need to find ways to deliver power system stability and security using less fossil fuels.

“If successful, these pilot projects will save consumers money and create new revenue streams for solar, wind and battery operators,” he said.

The Hornsdale wind farm is now registered for six of eight different FCAS markets and will provide insights into the cost-benefit of using pre-curtailment to provide FCAS services from a new technology source.

“This funding initiative will build upon these projects and invites applications for additional system services to be provided by renewable technologies,” Frischknecht said.

“By reducing the need for thermal generation to keep the system stable, the cost of energy will reduce over time,” he said. Details of the funding initiative can be found here.



  • RobertO

    Hi All, We need more funding for both ARENA and CEFC as part of our pathway to RE, not less as the COALition have tried to do under the leadership of the RWNJ’s or as the coal ash group would love to do.

    • Peter F

      It is probably no longer important for more government funding. Wind and solar are already cheaper than gas without subsidies and new coal cannot be financed. While gas generation in total will fall, gas will maintain a niche as a gap filler that coal plants are not flexible enough to fill so renewables will replace the equivalent of two or possibly three Liddell’s by 2022/23.
      Some government funding such as this project can be very helpful and in a few cases a capital subsidy to get a project over the line will certainly help but the fewer the grants and subsidies the better both from an economic point of view and minimising the opportunity for the reactionaries to attack.
      Continuing falls in wholesale power prices will make any coal plant paying export parity price uneconomic and increasing volatility in demand with more and more behind the meter assets will reduce capacity factors and increase maintenance for the remaining plants. So unless there is a massive collapse in world coal prices, any plant without a captive coal mine will be on life support by 2025

      • Paul Surguy

        Some coal mines are on life support,a drop in price should put them right out of there misery

      • RobertO

        Hi Peter F, ARENA and CEFC still need funding for the odd ball ideas that support RE not the run of the mill RE projects (do not need any funding nor should they get funding). ARENA and CEFC had their budget cut by babbott and the RWNJ’s or coal ash group and that budget should be restored.

        • Peter F

          I should have been clearer, I definitely support Arena funds for oddball ideas, new studies and even rolling over repayments from maturing projects from the CEFC into new ones, but a new wind or solar farm should not need government grants

      • Hettie

        Am I right in thinking that there are business links between the coalers and the gas peakers – that the combined businesses need the peak price gouging profits to survive?
        If so, the fossil fuel companies will fight for their lives against wind and solar providing FCAS.
        Already wind and solar are shut out of bidding in the peaks. If both FCAS and peak bidding were open to renewables, coal and gas would both collapse very fast indeed, while wind and sun would fill the gap just as fast.
        Does that make sense, or am I missing something vital?

  • Peter F

    A 200 MW windfarm equipped with appropriate controls can contribute 2-5 times the energy in the first 10 seconds after a frequency fall than an equivalent gas turbine so if all the current wind capacity was fitted with synthetic inertia controls it would provide more short term grid stability than all the existing gas plants. Batteries are even better and pumped hydro takes over for longer durations. Francis hydro turbines can even be run dry to provide inertia without wasting water. In sum a renewable + storage grid should actually provide more stable voltage and frequency that the current gas and coal dominated grid

    • Cooma Doug

      Well said.

      • mick

        gday mate thoughts on fly wheels no agenda merely curious

        • Cooma Doug

          I used to think they are a winner but believe the costs are not going to follow batteries down. They dont fit the EV as well as batteries.

          • mick

            lol using benson? to back up wind in hawaii

        • Peter F

          They have their place for short term stability and there is some work going on with 4 hour asynchronous units, but battery prices are falling so rapidly that flywheels are unlikely to be more than a few minutes supply for the total grid

          • mick

            yep its new to me seems to be an elegant engineering solution,possibly a daisy chain ie wind gen-flywheel to battery-grid

    • Malcolm M

      Why did the latest AEMO report on grid stability in South Australia say that the first 30 MW of the Hornsdale Power Reserve contributed hardly anything to grid inertia? They have not yet modelled the effect of the other 70 MW. I was surprised that their latest recommendations still require 3 or 4 gas generators to be in operation for grid stability.

      • Peter F

        This is a really tricky question. In theory inertia provides literally instant power injection/absorbtion whereas a battery has to actually measure the frequency/voltage difference and then react. That takes 140 msec or thereabouts. But as I understand it the AEMO control system runs on a 4 second scan so it is possible that the battery is not instructed to react for 4 seconds by which time frequency can have fallen catastrophically if there is no inertia in the system. It is possible to run the local system at the battery at 0.1 seconds or less. This happens on other controls like machine tools or aircraft where the overall system control runs at one frequency but the power control loop on the motors runs 10-100 times faster. However if the local control system on the battery responds at a different rate to the local control on a generator somewhere else on the grid you can set up oscillation and positive feedback loops which can cause quite wide swings in system level voltage and frequency.
        Thus the control model is a compromise and no-one has yet had much experience with all these different systems on one network. More batteries in different places and possibly particularly at gas turbines will certainly make the grid more predictable and thus it will be possible to reduce spinning gas turbines as a source of inertia.

        In reality well controlled systems such as machine tools can now follow position and velocity commands far better with 3-5% of the inertia that used to be required. However to do this needs faster more precise control systems and stiff systems.

        Very long grids are not “stiff” and this limits the minimum control response time but some of the work done for the Finkel review suggest that once we get a proper handle on all these variables the system can be made stable with 10-20% of the current inertia. At that time minimum number of synchronous generators can be reduced

        • Hettie

          But… I thought HPR does indeed respond in milliseconds, has prevented the wobbles that prevailed before it was switched on??