The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced that it will be providing almost half a million dollars in funding on behalf of the Federal Government to Monash University to facilitate the development of tools to address oscillation issues in the energy grid. 

The $1.3 million project will develop a tool to help identify the root causes of oscillatory instability and identify potential solutions. The tool will be suitable for use by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Transmission Network Service Providers (TNSPs), and will have applications for system planning, grid connection and operations purposes.

The tool is being developed by researchers at Monash University, and will allow faster solutions to the growing challenge of oscillatory instability, helping system planners design a more resilient grid.

The project is expected to reduce barriers to the connection and operation of inverter-based resources by helping system planners avoid upcoming oscillatory stability issues that can be caused by high levels of wind and solar and find solutions for this.

In Australia’s modern power system, oscillatory instability is most often a symptom of low system strength. In 2019–20, oscillatory instability was observed in the West Murray Region, leading to AEMO reducing the output of five solar farms while it worked through its understanding of the cause and potential solutions.

If this project is successful, it will provide faster insight into the nature and origin of these sorts of events, which will help all stakeholders be more proactive to manage the associated risk.

The project will increase the stability of the grid to support renewable generation growth, reduce constraints on investment in renewable generation in weak grid locations, optimise the production from existing wind and solar farms in weak parts of the grid and enable the connection of additional renewable generation by addressing the oscillation risks.

ARENA has previously funded Monash University to research inverter designs that promote stable operation in weak grid conditions. 

The outcomes found in the 2020 study will be used for the current study to show how multiple inverter-based resources interact with one another across the National Electricity Market (NEM) and how oscillation issues can be resolved.

ARENA’s CEO, Darren Miller, said these oscillation risks need to be addressed to avoid issues in the long term for the NEM.

“To manage the risk of instability in an increasingly inverter-based grid, it is necessary to build reliable and efficient tools that can identify root causes early,” Mr Miller said.  

“These tools should also be useful to explore the suitability of solutions for a grid increasingly dominated by renewable generation.

“Researchers at Monash University are working on the best solutions for oscillations and we’re confident in the outcomes that could help in the ramp up of new renewable energy generation and storage projects.” 

The research will be powered by the Monash Grid Innovation Hub, which is led by Associate Professor Behrooz Bahrani of the Monash Faculty of Engineering.

Professor Bahrani said that enhancing the resilience and stability of the national energy grid is paramount as Australia accelerates its transition to renewable energy. 

“With the expertise of Monash University researchers and the support from ARENA, this groundbreaking project promises to address current oscillation challenges and pave the way for a robust, reliable and renewable future for our energy infrastructure,” Professor Bahrani said.  

“Our commitment to facilitating a seamless integration of renewables into our grid is unwavering, and we’re optimistic about the innovative solutions this collaboration will bring forth.”

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