Wind farm proves it can provide cheaper, more precise grid security than gas generators

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Trials by Hornsdale wind farm, next to the Tesla big battery, show that wind turbines can deliver cheaper and “more precise” grid security services than conventional gas generators.

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Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm with the Tesla big battery in the foreground.

French renewable energy developer Neoen has hailed the results of its ground-breaking trial using a wind farm to provide frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) to the Australian grid – noting it had cut prices and delivered a more “precise” service to the market operator.

The trials on the Hornsdale 2 wind farm – part of the huge 315MW Hornsdale wind complex that now includes the Tesla big battery, officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve – conducted its first trials earlier this year, as RenewEconomy noted at the time.

The trial was significant for many reasons – one, it coincided with a major “peak” FCAS event – caused by maintenance work on the inter-connector to Victoria – that would have sent prices to $9,000MW or more in normal circumstances.

However, the intervention of the Hornsdale wind farm, along with the Tesla big battery, slashed those prices to $300/MW.

It was the first concrete sign of how new technologies could break up the fossil fuel cartel that had been extracting high prices from the grid for years. See our story Tesla big battery is already bringing Australia’s gas cartel to heel.

What’s more, the FCAS delivered by the Hornsdale turbines over the trials delivered greater response precision, when compared to conventional generators, and provided an “enhanced stabilisation” of the electricity grid.

In short, it showed that grid stability and security is not as dependent on coal and gas generators as many people would make it out to be.

The trials enhance the likelihood that the energy transition will bring new technology that can deliver cheaper, smarter, cleaner and more reliable grids than before.

“We are used to hearing people blame wind farms for rising instability, now we can see it is the opposite. – we are proving that the integration of renewables is going to be easier than thought and will provide real benefits to the market,” Neoen Australia’s Franck Woitiez told RenewEconomy.

“The accuracy and the speed of which frequency are injected into the network are of beneficial to all. And with the battery we can bring that to another level.”

Wind turbines have been providing FCAS to grids around the world, but this is the first time it has been trialled in Australia – and another trial will take place at the Mussellroe wind farm in Tasmania.

“The FCAS delivered from Hornsdale has already proved its impact on the market,” Woitiez said in an earlier statement.

“On the 14th of January, when FCAS Regulation prices were forecast to reach $9,000 per MWh – compared to the typical $20 per MWh – Neoen bid additional capacity into the market from both Hornsdale 2 and the Hornsdale Power Reserve.”

This brought the price down to below $300 for the duration of the interconnector maintenance, saving $3.1 million on a single day thanks to the increased competition.

“It’s a great initiative for the nation, for companies and for Australian pockets,” Woitiez said.

The new revenue streams from FCAS has more than offset losses accrued by the energy production restrictions required to deliver FCAS. The initiative provides an economically viable and sustainable model for the Australian energy system.

FCAS is used by the Australian Energy Market Operator to sustain the frequency of electricity delivery into the nation’s electrical system, with the aim of maintaining a balance between electricity generation and national demand.

Neoen, which reportedly is preparing for a stock exchange listing later this year, says the flexibility of the wind turbines at Hornsdale, developed by Siemens-Gamesa, allows for rapid and accurate response to control signals from AEMO.

It says that these turbines deliver greater response precision, when compared to conventional generators, and provides an enhanced stabilisation of the electricity grid.

“Neoen’s 24-hour control centre dispatched the wind farm into the FCAS markets under a wide range of conditions. The results of the trials confirmed the turbines’ response times were not impacted by gusts, ramping or strong winds.”

“We are used to hearing people blame wind farms for rising instability. Now we realise it is the opposite. we just proving that integration of renewables is going to be easier and provide benefits to the market.

The accuracy and the speed of which frequency are injected into the network are of beneficial. And with the battery we can bring that to another level.”

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