Growing wind bubbles could lead to curtailment, says AEMO

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AEMO warns 1/3 of future wind energy output in Victoria could be curtailed unless changes are made to operations of the Australian grid.

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A new report by the Australian Energy Market Operator  has warned that up to one third of the output from wind farms in South Australia and Victoria may need to be curtailed in the future, unless changes are made to the operations of the Australian grid it manages.

The prediction comes in a new technical report issued by AEMO on anticipated development in the wind industry. The report is notable for several predictions – including an extra 8,800MW of wind capacity by 2020 – with nearly half of this being built in Victoria.

This would take total wind capacity in Australia to around 11,500MW. The modelling it uses is based on 1,000MW of utility scale solar PV being built in Australia by 2020, and for 3000MW of coal-fired generation being retired.

AEMO warns that the  level of new wind generation will present challenges in operating the power system and the electricity market – and expects the issues to be felt first in South Australia and Tasmania, where forecast levels of wind generation are highest compared to demand, and in Victoria, which will have most new generation.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 1.19.35 PMIts modelling is based around the concept of “wind bubbles” – which are regions where it anticipates wind energy to be deployed. (see graph to the right).

For instance, South Australia already sources 27 per cent of its electricity from wind energy and is forecast by AEMO to double its capacity hy 2020. Tasmania is forecast to increase its capacity more than three-fold by 2020.

AEMO says further challenges to the grid are also expected to arise from what it calls “technological innovations”, including increased distributed generation such as rooftop PV; and from changing consumer behaviour contributing to a trend of declining electricity consumption from the power system.

On the matter of wind, AEMO says it has not yet costed the investment needed, or indeed the benefits, of addressing the wind issue.

However, it warns that without action, particularly on interconnector limits, up to 5,750 GWh and 1,260 GWh of the maximum potential wind generation energy in Victoria and South Australia could be curtailed due to network limitations.  It says this represents around 35 per cent and 15 per cent respectively of the energy potentially available from in these regions.

AEMO says other impacts from the anticipated growth of wind energy could be the reduction in “power system inertia”, caused by the withdrawal of thermal generation. This affects power system frequency. It says changes need to be made in South Australia and Tasmania to address this.

It also notes that increasing levels of wind generation will reduce power system fault levels at some locations, which may lead to further limitations on the operation of wind generation and high voltage direct current (HVDC) links.

Frequency is also an issue, which means that the accuracy of forecasting wind output is also critical. It notes that this is made easier by greater geographis spread. It says because of the high standard of forecasting, ”

the impact of 2020 levels of wind generation on NEM frequency regulation is likely to remain manageable within the existing frequency regulation arrangements.”

AEMO says it could potentially manage these power system impacts with existing processes and systems – either by using constraints  to limit wind generation, or as a last resort by market intervention by directing other generators to ensure sufficient levels of power system inertia are maintained.

AEMO says it is yet to  investigate the likely costs and potential benefits of various options to address the issues.

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5 Comments
  1. Mike Barnard 6 years ago

    Excellent news. Australian wind energy penetration is now growing to the point where reasonably well understood impacts will start to be felt and need to be addressed with sensible and reasonably priced grid improvements. These grid improvements will be of value to make the grid more robust in any event and are required as fossil fuels are removed.

    • Rogue_Primate_of_Bloomfield 6 years ago

      Congratulations on two fronts Mike!

      Your “volunteer” efforts in support of wind energy have been duly noted;
      over the last three months your 23 contributions to internet commentary have
      resulted in 12 first comment entries and 21 in the first five comment entries,
      in this respect. You have most certainly refined your contribution and have
      stayed on top of this personal enterprise. However, I do wish you might extend
      your volunteer efforts to the local food bank in Singapore (http://www.foodbank.sg/); this organization
      could no doubt benefit from your outstanding rhetorical skills.

      And I’m sure this development in the wind energy scenario in Australia will
      greatly inspire and benefit the profits of the company you work for, given IBM’s
      stake in the digital intelligence needed to accomplish this corporate wind
      energy endeavor (http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/uk/en/smart_grid/ideas/).

      Kudos

  2. Peter D 6 years ago

    Whilst this is good news, if there are network limitations, does this mean the 20% Renewable Energy Target can’t practically be met? If upgrades are required, will renewables be blamed for increased networks costs on top of ‘gold plating’ that has already occurred to date? Surely AEMO were consulted when the 20% RET target was set?

    • RobS 6 years ago

      We are at about 4% non hydro renewables now, this report says if wind grows 400% then additional stabilising measures will be needed. That point will be awfully close to the 20% target, closer to 30% renewable if you include hydro. Part of the thinking behind the 20% target is that it is the approximate point where additional methods of output stabilisation become necessary. This report really just reiterates that point, won’t stop alarmists from hitting the panic buttons.

  3. Chris Fraser 6 years ago

    Many have come here for much learning about the grid, from renewables, to AEMO, to merit order effect and many others, but power system inertia ? Clearly i have some way to go. I guess this happy situation results from having coal-powered turbines spinning above what is required of them but not actually powering anything useful ?

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