Monash University has been awarded almost half a million dollars by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for its research into managing unstable and weak parts of the electricity grid.

The $495,680 will go towards researchers at Monash University’s Grid Innovation Hub conducting the desktop study to explore issues and strategies associated with connecting renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind and battery projects into weaker parts of the National Electricity Market (NEM).

The $1.3 million project will use the West Murray region in north-west Victoria as a case study due to the region’s current system stability challenges.

Outcomes and outputs from the study will be applicable to other Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) across the NEM, such as the Central-West Orana REZ in NSW.

The study is supported by stakeholders who will be providing in-kind support, including the grid inverter technology provider ABB, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and AusNet Services.

The study will survey grid stability issues, and will explore a variety of techniques to manage them including the siting and operations of technology such as synchronous condensers, wind and solar farms, and battery systems incorporating advanced inverter systems. 

The project will facilitate enhanced understanding of weak grid areas, providing an opportunity for NEM stakeholders to understand and explore solutions to current and emerging issues.

Key outcomes of the study include aiming to improve the understanding of approaches to mitigate grid connection risk for renewable developers, increasing hosting capacity in weak networks and supporting a greater understanding of power system security and reliability when operating with higher shares of renewable energy.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said Australia’s power system is currently undergoing a major transformation, with the rise in inverter-connected solar and wind, with these renewable resources typically located in weaker areas of the grid, causing stability issues.

“Monash’s study, while looking at north-west Victoria, will aim to provide a solution for other renewable energy zones across Australia and help to increase the value delivered by renewable energy, reduce or remove barriers to renewables uptake and help to increase the overall skills and capacity in this important area,” Mr Miller said.

Chairman of the Monash Energy Institute’s Grid Innovation Hub, Dr Tony Marxsen, said the goal was to explore new approaches to connecting large renewable energy sources to power Australia’s future, from coast to coast, sustainably and affordably.

“Australia’s renewable energy future will use decentralised energy sources in areas of high winds and lots of sunshine – and these areas tend to be remote from cities, where the grid is weak,” Dr Marxsen said.

“Even with the strengthened interconnections foreseen in AEMO’s Integrated System Plan, the problem of weak grids in remote areas will continue to challenge large renewable investments.”

Director of the Grid Innovation Hub, Dr Behrooz Bahrani, said, “This project should provide insights and possibly even pre-engineered solutions to ease the burden of grid stability and security, and speed up connection approvals.”

AEMO Managing Director and CEO, Audrey Zibelman, said Australia has the technical capability to operate its power system with solar and wind generation contributing up to 75 per cent of its energy at times.

“AEMO looks forward to supporting this important government-funded project that will contribute to maintaining system security in a transitioning National Electricity Market with a high share of renewable resources,” Ms Zibelman said.

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