Australia’s wind farms could soon become “core providers” of crucial grid stability services, assuming a role currently dominated by the nation’s fossil fuel generators, a wind energy conference in Melbourne has been told.
Speaking at the 2017 Wind Industry Forum in Melbourne on Thursday, Australian Energy Market Operator principal Jenny Riesz said the growing need for frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) on the NEM, as Australia’s thermal power generation was retired, presented an emerging opportunity for wind power.
Riesz, who outlined the findings so far of AEMO’s Future Power System Security Program, said the changing generation profile – and in particular, the addition of large amounts of large-scale solar to the grid – pointed to an important opportunity for wind; even as it continues to be singled out by detractors as an unreliable and grid destabilising energy source.
Indeed, Riesz told the conference that wind power could actually be better suited to the FCAS market, due to its ability to “ramp up more quickly” than thermal generators.
“They can really take advantage here,” she said.
The ability for wind power generators to provide contingency and regulation FCAS is about to be tested in Australia at the yet to be completed Hornsdale 2 wind farm in South Australia.
As we reported last month, the intention is to show that wind farms can provide a relatively reliable source of FCAS, in the face of unexpected voltage swings and other faults.
AEMO believes that encouraging wind farms to provide FCAS will also add more fuel choice to the narrow FCAS market, and lower prices. Currently, only a few gas generators provide FCAS in South Australia, leading to massive price spikes when the service is called upon.
But as John Dyson, from global consultancy Greenview, points out, much of the above has already been proven in other markets around the world, with considerable success.
“This is not a technical question,” Dyson told the conference on Thursday. “It’s a question of value, just like it is with gas.
“If wind … developers can get their heads around it, it could be really valuable for (them),” he said.
Dyson also urged market regulators and policy makers to work harder at getting their mind around wind as an FCAS provider, starting with a change in language and working from there.
“When should move away from terms like “spinning reserve”, he told the conference. Especially considering we could soon reach a point in the energy market “where nothing is spinning at all.” (Except, maybe, wind turbine blades.)
Kate Summers, a senior electrical engineer at Pacific Hydro and an authority on the subject of the peculiarities – and inadequacies – of Australia’s energy market, argues a complete rethink of the FCAS market is needed.
For one thing, Summers noted, our reliance on “synchronous” fossil fuel generators for NEM frequency control is not entirely logical; nor is it working.
“The traditional generators, which are synchronous, they depend on the frequency control to be synchronous,” she told the conference.
“The synchronous units, or the baseload synchronous units are at risk, right now, with the way that the power system is being managed.
“We were one contingency away from collapsing New South Wales,” Summers told the conference, referring to the near miss the majority coal-powered state experienced during a February heat wave.
“What is going on in the controls here is a lack of good power system control coordination of the settings on the generators themselves…
“This is a significant problem. And the reason I am pointing this out is because it is not the wind farms or the solar farms that will get harmed by this behaviour. It is 94 per cent of the generation fleet of the power system that is at risk of doing damage when this stuff goes wrong.”