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A $2.23 million cloud-based connections simulation tool developed by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) will help fast-track the evaluation and approval process for new clean energy grid connections.

The project is funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and is expected to provide critical solutions to assist project developers in more efficiently preparing their applications for projects, such as new solar or wind farms, and reduce the time to connect them to the National Electricity Market (NEM).

AEMO is developing the connections simulation tool to allow project developers and their partners and electricity networks to rapidly test and refine their renewable energy plant and project configurations using the same detailed wide-area power system simulations as used within AEMO, while preserving the confidentiality of the model data.

AEMO CEO, Daniel Westerman, said, “Our energy sector continues to move through its most extensive transformation in a century, leading the world in the uptake of renewable generation on a per capita basis.

“As Australia’s power system operator, we’re collaborating with the industry to provide the expertise and resources to design and operate a sustainable energy system that provides safe, reliable and affordable energy for all Australians.

“The connections simulator will give developers the option to utilise the wide-area power system information used by AEMO for the first time to evaluate their project models quickly and efficiently. This will help enable new generation and storage capacity into the power system.”

Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister, Angus Taylor, said, “This new technology will make it even easier for new generation projects to apply for and receive approvals by enabling renewable generators and network companies to work out how the new projects will impact the grid.

“The connections simulation tool will help reduce the costs and application times for developers, network service providers, consultants and AEMO, and support continued strong investment in renewables.”

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said the development of the connections simulation tool would help to integrate and fast-track renewable energy into the energy system.

“Australia’s energy system is evolving rapidly with most of the growth in generation coming from rooftop solar and large scale solar and wind.

“The proposed connections simulation tool will assist large-scale developers by providing a detailed source of energy data and modelling that incorporates our electricity systems, thereby allowing them to accelerate their development process and manage potential risk before going through the formal grid connection process.”

In the past four years, AEMO has worked with developers and network businesses to connect 121 new generation projects. Despite this growth, there are 97GW of proposed generation projects, double today’s entire NEM capacity. This includes 46GW of wind, 33GW of solar and 10GW of hydro.

The connections simulation tool is part of a $12.95 million AEMO project, which will be the first step of a staged approach for the delivery of AEMO’s Australian Energy Simulation Centre. 

This ‘digital twin’ of the NEM will allow fast and highly-detailed analysis of the grid’s behaviour, especially during critical network events.

Mr Westerman said, “AEMO strives to be a world-leading energy system and market operator and system planner, for our members, market participants and every Australian consumer.”

“Given the increasing portion of renewables with technically complex control systems, the operations simulator will enhance AEMO’s ability to prepare for and quickly respond to events threatening secure power-system operations.”

Testing will soon commence with industry participants on a working prototype, followed by a staged rollout of the connection simulation tool. The first major release is planned for the end of 2021. 

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