Victoria solar farm owners losing $1 million a day from grid constraints | RenewEconomy

Victoria solar farm owners losing $1 million a day from grid constraints

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Restrictions on four Victorian large-scale solar farms in mid-September have taken 150MW of solar capacity out of the system and is costing more than $1m lost revenue per day.

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Gannawarra solar farm in Victoria.
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The owners of five solar farms in Victoria and NSW that have had their output cut in half because of system strength issues say they have not yet been told when the issue will be resolved, and collectively are losing more than $1 million a day in lost revenue.

The restrictions imposed on four of Victoria’s large-scale solar farms in mid-September – Karadoc, Bannerton, Wemen and Gannawarra – has taken 150MW of solar capacity out of the system. A similar restraint on the Broken Hill solar farm has removed another 25MW.

Based on recent prices in Victoria and NSW, that equates to more than $1 million of lost revenue per day from the five solar projects, and is creating tension with contractors, off-takers and financiers.

Developers did not wish to go on the record, for fear of rocking the boat with regulatory authorities, but say they have no idea when the solar farms will be allowed to resume full production.

AEMO has said it is looking for solutions by fine-tuning the inverters, but this requires extensive testing and complex modelling. What was expected to take several weeks has now dragged on for more than three months.

The system strength issues were discovered by AEMO during another modelling series several months ago, including a “what-if” scenario should problems emerge in various transmission lines. The modelling revealed that in those cases, dubbed contingencies, there was the potential for “oscillations” that could put system security at risk.

AEMO has since warned that other new projects hoping to be connected to the grid could face added costs and further delays until a new impact assessment is completed. Those looking to connect would have to undertake complex and costly modelling.

“All projects at the commissioning stage will be re-assessed for any contribution to voltage oscillations and to reconfirm compliance with performance standards before progressing further,” AEMO said in late September.

As RenewEconomy reported on Tuesday, AEMO has now declared a “fault shortfall” in the region. This is an important announcement as it means that the local networks are now considered responsible for ensuring system strength is maintained, and puts the onus on them – working in conjunction with AEMO and the regulator – to find a solution.

A similar declaration was made in South Australia two years ago. In response, ElectraNet is installing four “synchronous condensers” in key parts of the grid to ensure that many of the growing (20GW and more) of large-scale wind, solar and storage projects can go ahead.

By doing the same for Victoria, AEMO can now ensure that “syncons” – or even “grid forming” batteries – are located in parts of the network that are needed most, rather than the ad-hoc and costly installations that have become a feature of the “do no harm” rule dreamed up by the market rule-maker.

This rule has been widely criticised by energy experts and transmission companies, who say the ad-hoc nature of the installations may be doing more harm to the grid than good, a fact now acknowledged by AEMO.

Meanwhile, longer term solutions are being sought – first with a grid upgrade that is now underway in western Victoria, and also with a proposal for either further upgrades, or new transmission links from Victoria to NSW that could unlock some 8GW of wind and solar projects in Victoria, and another 20GW in NSW.

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4 Comments
  1. manicdee 5 months ago

    A million dollars a day buys a lot of batteries.

  2. juxx0r 5 months ago

    “Developers did not wish to go on the record, for fear of rocking the boat with regulatory authorities”

    I love how our regulatory bodies are considered vindictive.

    When do we get a royal commission into these guys?

  3. Tom 5 months ago

    Will the constraint be lifted in a heatwave?

  4. Mark Roest 5 months ago

    To the solar farms being hit: for half a day’s losses now, you could be preparing for a 150 GWh annual capacity battery factory which would produce and sell batteries that we expect will have between 2.1 and 3.2 kWh/kg capacity, for between US$130 and US$100 per kWh capacity, onsite and shared in under 30 months, and high volumes of imports from the US within 15 to 24 months. You could be putting batteries you own out where the supposed weakness is, instead of ‘condensers’, selling stability services, and pushing hard on those who are trying to keep the dinosaurs in charge.

    This will bring the stationary battery market sharply in line with the vehicle market pricing available to mass producers. The batteries are non-lithium, ceramic semiconductor electrodes with saline-based electrolyte, so they won’t catch fire, have no scarce, toxic or expensive materials, and should last a very long time (the electrodes are crystalized into semiconductors at approximately 1,000 degrees C.). We are in late stage development of prototypes, so pre-seed, but we’ve been getting to this point for 7 years, producing 6,500 cathodes and 3,000 anodes by hand, pushing our way through the ‘valley of death’. We can see the oasis, and it’s not a mirage.

    With these batteries, you can create abundant buffers which, like grain silos on wheat farms, only release as much energy to the market as it is willing to pay for — yet can always provide as much as it can take, at prices lower than fossil competitors can swallow, and so take as much market share as you can generate, instead of them strangling you financially. You can provide both bulk electricity and a full range of ancillary services in this scenario.

    We have also completely revised and extended the inventor’s 1983 patent for silicon multijunction ceramic multi-crystalline semiconductor thin film photovoltaic panels, and combined it with a new version of a 1995 license of a CIGS patent from NREL, for a modeled target of 48% peak solar conversion efficiency, at well under a dollar a Watt peak. We see potential for aircraft that can fly around the world nonstop in under a week, on solar and battery alone, with these technologies. Remember, everyone thought the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk would fail forever, and that later, Lindberg would drown in the Atlantic on his flight from New York to Paris, but both succeeded. We can too. That means that all other applications (greater than or equal to 120 Watt-hours) are fair game.

    Why aren’t we already flush, with no need to do this? Because it took us 7 years to get this far, and the money didn’t last that long. Because it was REALLY HARD to find the anode design that will work without corrosion. Because the investors with deep pockets are following the crowd, and following DoE’s lead, incrementally pushing lithium batteries which we see as a low-capacity dead end, compared to our technology. So they say prove it before we invest, and we have to say if you want to see it proven, you need to invest first, for us to be able to get there. We see lithium as a dead end because if it designed for over 500 Wh/kg, it typically either explodes or dies prematurely (and that’s a lot better than it was just last year), so one of the world’s best, at Stanford, had to back off to targeting 500 Wh/kg, from 700 Wh/kg, despite its ‘theoretical potential’ in the neighborhood of 5 kWh/kg. Which would you rather shoot for: 500 Wh/kg and restrictions on taking it on airliners, or 3 kWh/kg and safe?

    We plan to set up an expanded shop in California, move quickly through preparations for a factory for each product, and put the headquarters factories, from which all upgrades and new products will flow to additional factories, in California, which is acting like some forward-thinking states in Australia (adding BEVs as well as solar and battery uptake and support), while being the 5th largest economy in the world. I’d like to hear from you.
    Mark Roest, Director of Marketing & International Development, SEI

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