New wind and solar farms in South Australia will face tougher technical standards to ensure there is not a repeat of last year’s blackouts when wind farms “tripped” from the grid, forcing the whole state to plunge into darkness.
The preliminary rule changes force renewable generation sources to offer the same frequency services as thermal generators, such as coal and gas. They are expected to be a key recommendation in the final report of the Finkel review into energy security when it is released before the end of June.
The changes, which only affect new wind and solar projects, are expected to be replicated at a national level with a change in rules for the National Electricity Market. But rule changes can take two to three years and AEMO was keen to lock in the changes ahead of next summer.
AEMO was blind-sided by the wind farms disconnecting from the grid before last September’s blackout, saying they were unaware of the technical specifications or safety settings of the wind turbines in operation in the state.
SA was cut off from the NEM in late September after six wind farms disconnected 315 megawatts from the grid once a destructive storm knocked down three long-distance transmission lines.
The market operator has recommended the changes to the Essential Services Commission of South Australia, which regulates the state’s energy network where wind accounts for more than 40 per cent of generation.
“AEMO’s interim advice is that the high proportion of non-synchronous intermittent generation in South Australia justifies having additional or tighter technical standards than those which currently apply under the National Electricity Rules,” ESCOSA said.
“AEMO therefore recommends that, effective immediately, all new-generation licences be subject to additional conditions in order to give regard to the technical changes affecting the South Australian power system.”
New licences for wind farms in SA will not be granted unless they can provide the new services such as frequency control capabilities – to help maintain the 50 hertz required for a stable operation of the grid – as well as a higher capacity to ride through events such as storms as well as an ability to assist in system restoration following a “black system” event.
AEMO general manager of communications and corporate affairs Joe Adamo said the interim rule changes were about providing more stability in the NEM.
“We have sought to establish a set of generator technical standards that will be capable of supporting a secure power system throughout the energy transition,” Mr Adamo said.
“AEMO has considered how system security services could be reasonably provided under a number of plausible future scenarios, including increasing periods where less synchronous generation is dispatched; periods where no synchronous generation would be economically dispatched within the region and periods of low or zero operational demand due to increasing volumes of generation within the distribution network.”
It comes as an energy storage summit in Brisbane was told the cost of home storage, including battery and inverter – which can cost between $15,000 and $20,000 to install – was the biggest barrier to a widespread roll-out of the new technologies.
Redback Technologies managing director Philip Livingstone said he expected home energy storage options to come down in price in the same way as solar photovoltaic systems did a few years ago.
At the moment it took households about eight to 10 years to pay off a home storage option, but the industry was aiming to bring this down to five years.
Liam Ricketts, a director of Brisbane-based firm Supply Partners which distributes energy storage products, said the industry expected to install 20,000 units this financial year.