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Australia has changed the way power flows across the grid

image credit: Photo 121570727 © Leowolfert - Dreamstime

This item is part of the Special Issue - 09/2019 - Distributed Energy Resources, click here for more

Australia has the world's highest penetration of small-scale solar. Although countrywide it has reached almost 20%, some states such as Queensland and South Australia have gone over 29%. In terms of installed power, it is almost one seventh of the total capacity of the energy market in Australian east coast. And it is not dispatchable.

In the USA, the highest penetration of small-scale solar is in Hawaii and is just 14%, a value Australia had only 4 years ago. In just 4 years, Australia has changed the way power flows across the grid. ​

The amount of distributed generation is challenging the way power networks have operated in the past. NON-WIRES solutions that can integrate grid-scale as well as behind-the-meter DER in the network operations are resulting particularly interesting for utilities. Using the available resources is certainly faster and more cost effective than new capital investments.

Several pilot projects are studying how well the networks behave with these solutions, although the application of the learnings to the wider real network becomes the challenge.

One such challenge is being addressed at the Monash Smart Energy City, a 7.17 million AUD (4.76 USD) project where Monash University partnered with Minsait (an Indra company) to build the microgrid, funded with AU$2.97 million in funding from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency). The project has also received a grant from the Victorian government to test the business models and regulatory challenges for microgrid operators.

The project is pushing the boundaries of technology, to prove to the industry that a grid-connected network with high DER penetration can be operated through new technology and can bring significant new value to customers, to the outer network and to the energy markets.

From its initial idea, the Monash Smart Energy City was meant to show to the power utility industry that high DER penetration, and load control can be used to guarantee the same power quality constraints that utilities must comply with.

The coordination of loads from several buildings and an EV charging infrastructure, of several solar PV installations, and of Australia’s largest behind-the-meter energy storage systems, will be performed through a hybrid (centralized-distributed) platform.

Each load, source or controllable field device is connected to an intelligent IIoT processing node that continuously processes data to analyze local power quality issues and perform control actions to prevent the escalation of any negative effect. ​Additionally, a centralized platform performs more broad actions through the coordination of more nodes dispatching control commands when required.

The Monash microgrid is also testing market mechanisms and new business models. Each connected building is considered a customer and can expose its energy flexibility (load and generation) to the internal Monash operator market, using a Smart Energy Management platform that is under development.

The energy price presented internally to the “customers”, is indexed to the market price or to a request for demand response, and the operator will ensure to dispatch the buildings (or customers) best priced or in best conditions to respond. ​Distributed ledger technologies are also being considered, to trade generated renewable energy.

The Smart Energy City @ Monash, is a project under development and will be fully deployed by October 2020. It is also part of a much larger initiative through which Monash University has committed to reduce its emission to Net Zero by 2030 and for which in February this year Monash University was awarded by the United Nations Climate Change the prestigious Momentum of Change award.

Giovanni Polizzi's picture

Thank Giovanni for the Post!

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Discussions

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 26, 2019 3:58 pm GMT

Giovanni, it's great to know solar panels are useful for providing intermittent power to microgrids in deserts - it must come in handy for charging the cellphones of nomadic tribes (especially the NON-WIRES part!).

How is that relevant for anyone living in a modern industrial economy?

Giovanni Polizzi's picture
Giovanni Polizzi on Aug 26, 2019 6:02 pm GMT

Hi Bob,

thank you for your comment.

I am not sure I get your observation. I referred to NON-WIRES solutions (also often referred to as Non-Wires alternatives) as those that would not require augmenting the infrastructure of the distribution network.

As for the reference to the desert, I do not know what you refer to. If you want to be more specific I'd be happy to reply.

Giovanni

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 27, 2019 1:00 am GMT

Giovanni, though "non-wires" programs like TOU pricing and demand-response are often portrayed disingenuosly as "alternatives" or "solutions", they're not solutions for any consumer. They exist solely to enable power utilities to sidestep the responsibility of providing reliable, on-demand electricity for their customers.

Although 18% of Australia is within the boundaries of named deserts, 35% receives so little rain it is effectively desert. Most of it is in Queensland and South Australia.

The country, a seeming paradise for generating solar energy. is a counter-example of environmental responsibility. At 15.37 tonnes, Australia has among the worst per-capita carbon emissions in the world. Not hard to see why, looking at its electricity mix:

Coal 31.5%
Oil 37.7%
Gas 24.7%
Renewables 6.2%

So excuse me if I can't share your enthusiasm for solar energy. If it can't do better in a locale like Australia, it's worthless.
 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 27, 2019 11:31 am GMT

Thanks for sharing-- this large push into solar installations is also being followed logically by Australia seemingly being one of the world leaders for energy storage installations. Giovanni, do you have insights into what portion of the installed solar in Australia is also connected to battery storage & how those relative numbers are trending moving forward?

Giovanni Polizzi's picture
Giovanni Polizzi on Aug 28, 2019 9:27 am GMT

https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/resources/technologies/energy-storage

Hi Matt

This is probably the best information site. Residential energy storage is rapidly increasing, as you may appreciate from the graph.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 28, 2019 1:30 pm GMT

Thanks Giovanni!

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