The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has committed AU$9 million to 11 large-scale wind and solar projects which will trial providing their own short-term generation forecasting, which in turn is intended to enable further capability development.
On Monday, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) — in partnership with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) — announced it had awarded AU$9.41 million to 11 projects which will begin trialing short-term forecasting. The projects account for at least 45% of the National Electricity Market’s (NEM) registered wind and solar capacity — providing a total of 3.5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable electricity generation — and will help to explore the potential for wind and solar farms to provide their own, and hopefully more accurate forecasts of their power output into AEMO’s central dispatch system.
“Working with AEMO, we’re supporting these trials to help avoid generators being unfairly penalised for inaccurate forecasts while also supporting system security by better matching demand with anticipated supply from variable renewable generators,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “Much like traditional energy generators, we’re aiming to show that renewable energy is now capable of providing accurate measurement of energy output.”
The funding is intended to enable further capability development as well as help provide valuable information to the market on delivering forecasts on a five-minute basis. Further, forecasting technology and factors that affect a forecast’s accuracy in various weather and operational conditions, as well as different geographies, will also be investigated.
“With almost half of all solar and wind power generation taking part in projects in this initiative, this will lead to better deals for wind and solar farms, lower costs and more accurate data for AEMO,” said Miller. “Some solar and wind farms will be sites for several different technologies and some technologies will be tested across multiple sites so we will begin to understand the strengths of different approaches in different locations.
“Improving forecasting of wind and solar generation will help better integrate variable renewable energy into the grid, reduce grid instability and reduce costs. It is a win-win for everyone.”
Currently, AEMO is responsible for forecasting how much electricity will be generated by wind and solar farms, the output of which varies according to weather conditions and the time of day. If AEMO’s forecasts are wrong, or generators can’t meet AEMO’s target, it can result in insufficient power in the system and, thus, higher operating costs. Wind and solar farms are penalized for not meeting a required output level, or are sometimes asked to curtail their generation to match an overly conservative forecast.
Thus, the new trial is intended to provide AEMO with more accurate forecasts for use in central dispatch in order to improve the accuracy of market outcomes. By providing their own 5-minute forecasts, wind and solar may be able to better inform AEMO and avoid incurring penalties or curtailment.
A wide array of weather forecasting technologies will be used in the trial, including onsite cloud cameras that can predict the timing and impact of passing clouds on a solar system’s output, wind speed radars, Japanese weather satellites, infrared, and data from the country’s Bureau of Meteorology.
“We are extremely pleased to see the collaboration between market participants, forecasting service providers and ARENA to deliver highly innovative solutions to the renewable energy sector,” said AEMO’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Audrey Zibelman.
“Weather is the fuel for an ever-increasing proportion of the electricity generated across Australia, so it is vitally important that we foster innovation and rapid development of world leading technologies and services. As the market operator, we require the best possible information in real-time to manage the secure and reliable delivery of energy to Australian consumers, 24/7.”
Among the company’s awarded funding by ARENA is Danish wind energy giant Vestas which, along with its wholly-owned energy analytics solution provider, Utopus Insights, is aiming to design a more accurate forecast of energy generation from large-scale wind farms which it hopes will “reduce wind generators’ dispatch uncertainty, and improve system stability by better anticipating supply from renewable sources through accurate weather forecasting.”
“An important challenge in wind and solar power is predicting fluctuations in generation to ensure system stability by balancing the energy supply and demand in the market,” explained Peter Cowling, Head of Vestas Australia and New Zealand. “We hope to offer a much more advanced forecasting solution that can reduce generator dispatch uncertainty, lower the operational cost of balancing energy supply and demand, and limit energy price volatility and regulatory complexity. Our solution will help deliver sufficient and reliable energy to the market.”
Vestas’ solution “will apply advanced data science techniques including deep learning to high-resolution wind turbine SCADA data, granular short-term hyper-local weather forecasts and meteorological data to deliver greater accuracy in energy forecasts” and utilitize “Utopus Insights’ proprietary weather forecasting, coupling physical and statistical models with an industry-best 1 km² precision.”
“While it’s true that renewable energy is intermittent, with the right digital intelligence, it is no longer unpredictable,” added Chandu Visweswariah, Founding President and CEO at Utopus Insights. “Our solution unlocks the value of renewable energy as a predictable and reliable source of power. Between our deep experience in energy analytics, proprietary hyper-local weather modelling, and Vestas’ massive amount of turbine data, we are using the power of partnership to usher in a new era of energy digitalisation.”
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