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As Australia strives to reduce CO2 emissions across all sectors of modern life, it is becoming increasingly clear that electricity will be the backbone of our entire energy system, offering new opportunities for microgrids and Virtual Synchronous Machines.

The 2021 Greenhouse Gas Inventory report released by the Department of Industry indicates the electricity, transportation, and mining and processing sectors account for well over 65 per cent of total CO2 emissions – electricity alone accounts for 33 per cent. Driven by the need to reduce emissions and the associated economic benefit, these market sectors are turning to electrification from renewable energy.

In the transport sector, NSW has joined other states and territories in announcing a bus electrification strategy. The mining sector has launched the Charge On Challenge, an industry consortium focused on driving solutions for the electrification of ore digging and hauling. The electricity sector is leading the transition with wind, solar and hydro replacing fossil fuel generation, as customers demand more renewable resources in their energy mix.

Moving to renewable energy, particularly in a country like Australia, is not without its challenges. Australia has vast wind and solar resources, but these are intermittent and rely on the presence of large generators to operate the grid. We also have a low population base spread over huge distances, and we are an island nation. These factors create complex challenges that need to be resolved as we move towards our renewable energy future.

Hitachi Energy has been solving these challenges for over 30 years.

30 Years of Experience

Microgrids and Virtual Synchronous Machines in combination with Battery Energy Storage Systems will continue to shape the way electricity is generated and consumed as infrastructure evolves towards our renewable energy future. Over 30 years of experience provides Hitachi Energy with a unique perspective on the future of energy.

The story of microgrids can be traced all the way back to the explorer, Douglas Mawson, who established what is now Mawson Station in the early 1900s. As the camp evolved over several decades the reliance on diesel fuel grew. But as diesel became both expensive to ship and potentially damaging to the pristine Antarctic environment, an alternative approach was needed to cleanly and reliably power the station. 

And this is where Hitachi Energy comes into the story. Our team, known at that time as PowerCorp, developed a combined inverter and thermal load to stabilise energy output at Mawson Station. The integration of two existing wind turbines provided stable, reliable renewable heat and electricity to the station while minimising diesel usage. At the same time, the ability to better control and manage the overall electrical supply with software was a major breakthrough in electrical engineering and a milestone in microgrid evolution.

The communities of Denham, Coral Bay and Marble Bar in Western Australia have also shared in the success of microgrids, with Western Power utilising our technology in combination with flywheels for control and stabilisation. Today, Hitachi Energy’s Virtual Synchronous Machine technology is the backbone for more than 220 energy storage and microgrid projects around the world, with 700MW of storage currently under management.

The Rise of Virtual Synchronous Machines

Virtual Synchronous Machines, in combination with battery energy storage, are playing an increasingly important role in supporting the grid – a role that will accelerate with the decommissioning of conventional generation to enable Australia to reach a net zero emissions target.

At Hitachi Energy, we enable grid resilience against extreme events, remove infrastructure limitations as an inhibitor to electric power, and enable transmission and distribution to evolve into the 21st century.

IEA’s World Energy Outlook for 2020 underscores the value of this approach, as “the pace of change in the electricity sector puts an additional premium on robust grids and other sources of flexibility … storage plays an increasingly vital role in ensuring the flexible operation of power systems.”

The ESCRI-SA Dalrymple Project is a prime example of how Hitachi Energy’s technology helps ensure a reliable, robust electricity system.

ESCRI relies on Hitachi Energy’s Virtual Synchronous Machine, combining grid forming inverters with battery storage and an advanced control system to support the operation of the nearby Wattle Creek Wind Farm, Electranet’s transmission network, and SA Power’s distribution network on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.

In the first six months of operation, outage times were dramatically reduced from 8 hours to 30 mins, network reliability improved, renewable curtailment minimised, and operating costs reduced. 

Looking Ahead 

As the transportation and mining market sectors transition to a renewable energy future, demands on electricity networks and their ability to operate without fossil fuel generators will increase. In the 2022 Draft Integrated System Plan (ISP), AEMO forecast that all base load coal generation will be retired by approximately 2038 under the Step Change Scenario, considered the most likely. 

AEMO forecasts that capacity growth will be led by wind and solar generation under the Step Change scenario to 2050 (Source: ISP 2022)

Capacity growth will largely come from wind and solar – intermittent energy sources. Virtual Synchronous Machines in combination with storage to support these intermittent energy sources will be required. These technologies are playing an important part in changes occurring within electricity networks with utilities increasingly turning to the use of grid forming inverters with storage and microgrids to replace aging infrastructure. This is particularly the case in rural areas where light loads and smaller numbers of customers are connected to each distribution line.

Hitachi Energy is delivering the technology at the core of these solutions, the most recent example being the Kalbarri Microgrid Project.

The drivers for this change in generation mix are not just emission reductions.  The cost of renewables and the cost of storage is reducing at the same time as the cost of fossil fuels, such as gas, is increasing. Hitachi Energy’s Virtual Synchronous Machine technology is applied in this scenario to act as spinning reserve and at the same time can be the sole grid forming reference in contingency events. This enables gas turbines, for example, to be switched off instead of operating at very low loads, which is the most inefficient area of the operation curve.

Hitachi Energy is working with Territory Generation to deliver the Darwin – Katherine BESS Project, which will replace aging gas turbines at Channel Island Power Station as spinning reserve on the network. 

The Drive for More Electrification

The energy transformation is happening at an unprecedented pace, driving demand for flexibility in overall infrastructure. This drive for flexibility along with the rise of the ‘prosumer’ will in turn support more energy independence. Energy independence in turn drives increased decentralisation of generation. Australia already has amongst the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world – ensuring that microgrids and Virtual Synchronous Machines, in combination with energy storage, are increasingly deployed.     

Hitachi Energy is driving the evolution of the grid itself.

30 years of innovation and leadership in microgrids and grid-stabilising technology have provided electricity to communities that once looked at reliable power as a far-off dream. 30 years of innovation and leadership is providing network support and solving the issues of integrating intermittent renewables into the energy mix towards a net zero target.

And we’re just getting started. Our aim for the next 30 years is to bring electricity to the remaining 940 million people still without access across the globe.

About Hitachi Energy

Hitachi Energy is a global technology leader that is advancing a sustainable energy future for all. We serve customers in the utility, industry and infrastructure sectors with innovative solutions and services across the value chain. Together with customers and partners, we pioneer technologies and enable the digital transformation required to accelerate the energy transition towards a carbon-neutral future. 

We are advancing the world’s energy system to become more sustainable, flexible, and secure whilst balancing social, environmental, and economic value. Hitachi Energy has a proven track record and unparalleled installed base in more than 140 countries. Headquartered in Switzerland, we generate business volumes of approximately $10 billion USD.  

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Hitachi Energy. For more information, visit hitachienergy.com, or connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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