6 High penetration intermittent renewable generation (HP-IRG) in Australia

Electricity grids in Australia can be broadly divided into the National Electricity Market (NEM), which covers the entire east coast, and the other (smaller) grids. These include the West Australian South-West Interconnected System (SWIS) supplying Perth and surrounding regions, the North West Interconnected System (NWIS), and the many small grids supplying electricity to isolated townships and mining communities in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.

The NEM operates on the world’s longest interconnected power system, stretching approximately 5,000 kilometres from South Australia to northern Queensland [34], supplying the vast majority of the Australian population. Several key characteristics of the NEM distinguish it from the European electricity grid (Germany in particular):

  • the NEM supplies a population roughly one-quarter the size of Germany’s, but over a much greater area (South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have a combined area approximately ten times larger than Germany)
  • the shape of the network is broadly long and thin, as opposed to a mesh-type dense, interconnected network like Germany
  • the NEM supplies many remote and regional areas, and therefore includes many long, ‘thin’ radial supply lines to transport electricity to these locations.

These characteristics present different technical challenges from those in Europe and are likely to also provide unique challenges for the integration of HP-IRG.

A large majority of the electricity generated from solar systems in Australia comes from decentralised rooftop systems connected to the LV network. In the future, large centralised solar systems, such as those proposed under the Australian Government’s Solar Flagships program, could have very high levels of penetration in particular parts of the network.