Australia’s ‘once in a century’ switch from coal to renewables

Nick Yates is the founder of Sydney-based Flexity Pty Ltd, a specialist in technologies which are enabling the country’s transition to a low carbon energy future, and a Fundamentals regional channel partner. He reveals how Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) are powering Australia’s fast-accelerating transition to energy sustainability.

Australia’s reputation for foot-dragging on carbon emissions and locked-in relationship with the entrenched coal industry is being demolished, faster than many could have imagined only a few months ago. States and national government have signed up to a forward-facing strategy which will see King Coal entirely replaced by low carbon generation as early as the 2030s.

One of the key drivers of the transition is the creation of Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) — virtual power stations on a massive scale, designed to replace coal fired plant directly. They are an integral part of a much bigger strategic push, which is designed to revolutionise every aspect of energy in Australia, embracing generation, transmission, storage, distribution, and the relationships between the industry and its customers.

Australia’s radical change in energy strategy springboards on the decarbonisation strides taken by individual state governments – and in particular those which recognise they are increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events. Record-breaking floods and droughts are no longer seen as freak events, or even the new normal. There is increasing realisation that they are likely to get worse, causing untold misery and financial losses – including making many homes and businesses uninsurable. That’s in addition to rises in average temperatures, which could devastate agriculture and make some regions uninhabitable.

Transforming transmission & distribution

Australia’s transmission and distribution infrastructure has traditionally been managed on a state-by-state basis, with some connections between them. The new strategy calls for the development of a much more integrated grid, connecting state networks into a regional supergrid that embraces all renewable generation and storage/firming sites. This is rightly seen as essential for balancing supply and demand, as well as reducing the need to deploy gas as a backup generating resource.

Image courtesy AEMO

Transforming Australia’s energy system presents two specific challenges, in which we are closely involved, together with our partners Fundamentals. The first is controlling voltages in a system that is radically different from the conventional model of big fossil fuelled power stations, pumping out predictable supplies to passive consumers, with predictable patterns of demand. Australia’s new energy domain will comprise thousands of sources of electricity, often intermittent, serving customers who may be power producers as well as consumers.

Fundamentals’ SuperTAPP SG automatic voltage controller is one of the key technologies to address emerging technological challenges. It enables new connections of diverse renewable generation to the grid without throwing it off balance, such as by more effectively paralleling transformers at MV grid connection substations and also monitoring load profiles on outgoing feeders. SuperTAPP SG schemes can control voltage across networks when dynamic changes occur, from changes in the weather affecting solar generation to highly variable and unpredictable electric vehicle charger connections. Development of solutions for voltage control at lower voltage levels, and their coordination with other schemes throughout the grid are some of the innovations in play and which will be crucial for the provision of system-wide control necessary to deliver Australia’s energy transition.

The second challenge is communication and control, which is where we at Flexity and Fundamentals are also providing solutions. Integrating previously localised power networks into a well-managed super-system needs an overlay of technologies which enable managers to keep the whole system in balance – drawing power from where it is available (including REZs and virtual power plants) and despatching it to where it is needed, in an environment which is dramatically more dynamic than ever before.

Read the full article at New Energy World: What’s driving Australia’s switch from coal addiction to renewables? | Article Page (