13 Further work required

Australia is fortunate to have numerous abundant energy sources, including solar energy. The continent also experiences a collection of unique conditions which, when combined, create the unique environment in which the Australian electricity network operates. The successful integration of high penetration solar power into the Australian electricity network is far from assured. Although some initial investigations have been carried out in other countries, these have been of limited scope and are not necessarily applicable in the Australian context.

The network configuration in Australia is different from that of the rest of the world. The National Electricity Market (NEM) covers the entire east coast which is far larger and has a greater diversity in PV generation across the network when compared with areas in the countries where various studies have been carried out. Though widespread, the NEM is also exceptionally sparse by international standards, leading to higher characteristic impedances and consequently greater sensitivity to the behaviour of localised load and generation.

Specific areas in need of future work include relevant parties to:

  • Develop evaluation tools for DNSPs to assess the impacts and develop appropriate mitigation responses to cope with increasing levels of PV within the distribution network
  • Reconcile conflicting information from the scientific literature on the impacts of intermittent generation
  • Undertake a large-scale assessment of the characteristics of generation, load and networks in Australia to determine the applicability of international results, and the extent to which the Australian networks do or do not require special consideration
    • consequently, the requirement for intermittency mitigation measures (for example network storage, load management, generation curtailment or additional ancillary services) and the most cost-effective approaches to meeting this, at different penetration levels, can be assessed
  • Collect high resolution (temporal and spatial) solar data to support:
    • development of accurate solar forecasting tools, both for long-term planning and short-term network management
    • assessment of different large and small scale PV architectures
  • Perform further modelling and real-world experimental analysis for assessing and managing intermittency:
    • relatively detailed modelling and experimental analysis is required at all levels and timescales (e.g. distribution through to system level, and short through to long timeframes)
  • Maintain industry engagement, as initiated through the ‘intermittency workshop’ and ‘stakeholder perspectives survey’ undertaken in this project to ensure:
    • research is relevant and appropriate to the Australian context, including appropriateness to the incumbent systems and regulatory environment
    • a shared vision with greater renewable generation is fostered.

In order to better evaluate the likely impacts of solar intermittency on various types of Australian electricity networks, detailed information on the characteristics of the networks is needed, for example impedances of feeders representative of the different types of networks operated by specific utilities.

There is a lack of readily accessible quality information available in Australia on grid integration issues. This, however, does not seem to be as much the case in the United States. NREL and Sandia, along with other institutions in the US, have been carrying out many relevant studies and correspondingly publishing many reports which are publicly available. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) proactively supports studies and activities in the area and disseminates high quality information to a variety of stakeholders. An example is DoE’s SunShot Initiative and the high penetration solar portal [3], the latter containing links to information and also relevant DoE-supported workshops with key stakeholders which address many high solar penetration issues.

There is a strong need in Australia for something similar, that:

  • encourages analysis and investigation in this area and provides openly accessible published reports and information
  • brings together key industry players in a dialogue to discuss the issues
  • makes relevant information accessible to all stakeholders (e.g. a portal).

This will enable Australian renewable energy stakeholders including industry, research, government and financiers to better understand the issues and opportunities surrounding high penetration solar intermittency, to direct resources more effectively and collaborate more efficiently to overcome the barriers preventing the uptake of high penetration solar power in Australia.