Australia should take a “staged approach” to removing coal power plants from the grid. That’s the recommendation of a new report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).
The report is in response to the growing amount of solar and wind in the electricity grid, which is challenging existing technologies and practices.
Maintaining Power System Security with High Penetrations of Wind and Solar Generation examines renewables integration in overseas grids and the lessons Australia can learn.
It warns that Australia has increasing wind and solar power, but our grid is not built to cope with change.
Importance of frequency response
A key point of the report is the need for mandatory primary frequency response requirements for new generators.
“Frequency response” refers to the need to keep the grid’s AC current steady at 50Hz — the frequency used in most machines and appliances.
Too much or too little power in the grid and the frequency changes, causing problems like power outages. Power producers must “respond” to correct these changes and keep the frequency steady.
Coal-fired power stations produce a steady output of electricity, which supports a steady frequency 24/7. But solar and wind power plants supply more or less electricity hour by hour, depending on the weather.
To combat this, AEMO wants an “urgent” change to electricity market rules. This would make all new generators responsible for keeping the frequency steady and the grid reliable.
To do this, wind and solar farms will need to use additional technology. One method is to add a synchronous condenser, a giant rotor that acts either like a dampener or a booster to smooth out frequency fluctuations.
Electricity lessons from Texas and Ireland
AEMO notes that in Texas and Ireland, frequency response is required from renewable generators as well as fossil-fuel stations.
Similarly, Great Britain and Ireland have rules requiring all generators to act when the frequency changes too rapidly.
In Denmark, synchronous condensers improve the system strength of interconnectors and increase grid reliability.
As we’ve seen, Australia’s main grid does not require frequency response from all generators and AEMO wants this to change.
AEMO suggests that with planning and foresight, a staged approach to renewable energy will keep the grid secure and reliable.
Become part of the renewable transition
Generating and controlling electricity requires vast technical knowledge and is best left to the experts.
Solaray is a leader in home and commercial solar power systems. So, if you’re thinking about becoming part of Australia’s grid by producing your own power with solar panels, contact us through the form below.