Queensland utility teams with BoM to boost solar and wind forecasting | RenewEconomy

Queensland utility teams with BoM to boost solar and wind forecasting

Powerlink announces “strategic partnership” with Bureau of Meteorology to better inform planning and decision-making on its increasingly renewable grid.

A rainbow over the University of Queensland's Warwick Solar Farm. Image credit: Terry Moore

Queensland government-owned utility Powerlink has announced a “strategic partnership” with Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, in a bid to better inform the planning and decision-making of the transmission network service provider (TNSP) with an increasingly solar and wind based grid.

Powerlink CEO Paul Simshauser said on Wednesday that the “industry-first” partnership would see the TNSP work with the Bureau over the next three years to access specialised knowledge and data, and deliver targeted research, particularly around solar forecasts.

“This partnership will give Powerlink insights into weather data, models and forecast trends that help us plan the future transmission network,” he said.

Simshauser said the formalisation of the partnership followed up on Powerlink’s current research project with the BoM, which involved developing “near real-time” solar irradiance information.

That project, which kicked off in June, aims to build Powerlink’s understanding of current and potential impacts from both residential solar and large-scale renewables across the Powerlink network, which extends 1700km from north of Cairns to the New South Wales border.

Queensland has a huge amount of solar on its network, having passed the 4GW milestone more than a year ago and taken total installed PV capacity to more than twice the capacity of the state’s biggest power station, the Gladstone coal generator.

“Energy demand and our ability to deliver safe, reliable and cost effective electricity supply to close to five million Queenslanders is closely linked to weather conditions and impacts,” Simshauser said.

“We look forward to exploring other potential research opportunities with the Bureau, particularly around the impacts of severe weather events such as cyclones, fires, floods and drought on our network.”

The partnership between Powerlink and BoM comes roughly two years after the announcement of establishment of a formal collaboration between the federal government’s weather agency and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), in November of 2018.

The partnership between those two organisations followed the early 2017 revelation that the AEMO had been relying on private weather forecasters, leaving it under-prepared for weather-related blackouts that hit South Australia in February of that year.

As RenewEconomy reported at the time, AEMO completely botched its forecasts for the afternoon of February 8, expecting lower temperatures and more wind when the opposite happened. By the time it realised its mistake, it was too late to call on the country’s most efficient gas-fired generator, Pelican Point, to fire up its idle second unit.

With BoM now working directly with AEMO, RenewEconomy asked Powerlink why a separate collaboration with the forecaster was required.

A spokesperson for Powerlink replied in an emailed statement that while BoM may have partnerships with other bodies, the Queensland the utility was the first TNSP in Australia to partner directly with BoM via a strategic partnership agreement.

A sentiment echoed by BoM chief Dr Andrew Johnson: “Weather and climate conditions are increasingly connected to the secure, safe and efficient operation of the energy grid, and this is never more evident than when it comes to the energy transmission network,” he said.

“This partnership will draw on the Bureau’s expertise to drive solutions in priority areas to ensure the safe and reliable day-to-day operation of Powerlink’s network.”

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