Alice Springs Future Grid

The Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy is bring­ing togeth­er ener­gy experts from the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry and Aus­tralia to devel­op a series of solu­tions which will remove bar­ri­ers to fur­ther renew­able uptake in Alice Springs. The project will sup­port the town’s Future Grid’ and the lessons learnt will be valu­able for larg­er inter­con­nect­ed grids such as the Nation­al Elec­tric­i­ty Mar­ket on Australia’s East Coast.

Vis­it the Alice Springs Future Grid website

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Alice Springs sits at around 10 per cent renew­able ener­gy pen­e­tra­tion. Cur­rent­ly, no addi­tion­al solar can be inte­grat­ed into the pow­er sys­tem due to net­work chal­lenges includ­ing low fault cur­rent, iner­tia and spin­ning reserve, and poor fre­quen­cy con­trol (see glos­sary for tech­ni­cal definitions).

These chal­lenges are fore­cast to affect the Nation­al Elec­tric­i­ty Mar­ket (NEM) in com­ing years.

Alice Springs can address this now, gen­er­at­ing new insights that are rel­e­vant and applic­a­ble to oth­er pow­er sys­tems, includ­ing the NEM.

Vis­it the Alice Springs Future Grid ARE­NA project page

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The two-year $12.5m under­tak­ing will holis­ti­cal­ly inves­ti­gate inter­sect­ing hypothe­ses encom­pass­ing con­sumers, pow­er sys­tems, and indus­tri­al micro-grid chal­lenges. Tri­als can be con­duct­ed in the exist­ing pow­er sys­tem, to explore new approach­es to spin­ning reserve, and use new tech­nolo­gies like solar fore­cast­ing.

Through this project, it is antic­i­pat­ed that Alice Springs will become a nation­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant blue­print for what a grid with very high lev­els of renew­ables (includ­ing Dis­trib­uted Ener­gy Resources) could look like.

This will assist Aus­trali­a’s tran­si­tion to renew­able ener­gy by pro­vid­ing lessons on a small scale that can be applied nation­al­ly or globally.

Renew­able ener­gy in Cen­tral Aus­tralia: FAQs

What is the North­ern Territory’s tar­get for renew­able ener­gy?
The North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to 50% renew­able ener­gy by 2030. This is mapped out in the Roadmap to Renew­ables Report of 2017.

How much ener­gy cur­rent­ly comes from renew­ables in Alice Springs?
On aver­age annu­al­ly, around 10% of the pow­er used in Alice Springs comes from solar ener­gy. At cer­tain times – e.g. in the mid­dle of a sum­mer day when air con­di­tion­ers are run­ning hard and demand for pow­er is high – Alice Springs can reach up to 50% solar. Gas engines con­tribute most of the pow­er gen­er­a­tion in Alice Springs.

Why are we not already at 50% solar, or more, in such a sun­ny part of the world?
Alice Springs is an iso­lat­ed pow­er sys­tem, so all the ser­vices need­ed to run the grid have to be pro­vid­ed local­ly. In all pow­er sys­tems, gen­er­a­tion con­stant­ly has to match demand. On top of this, there needs to be enough gen­er­a­tors focused on main­tain­ing a sta­ble pow­er sys­tem (pro­vid­ing things like volt­age, iner­tia, spin­ning reserve and fre­quen­cy). Cur­rent­ly gas gen­er­a­tors do most of this work. Tran­si­tion­ing to renew­able ener­gy requires care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to main­tain a reli­able pow­er network.

Why can’t we just put in a big bat­tery?
In 2018 Ter­ri­to­ry Gen­er­a­tion installed a five megawatt bat­tery in Alice Springs, which is actu­al­ly larg­er pro­por­tion­al to our grid than the Tes­la big bat­tery” in South Aus­tralia. Cur­rent­ly, the cost of installing a bat­tery big enough to pro­vide ener­gy overnight is pro­hib­i­tive­ly high. The Alice Springs Future Grid project will increase our under­stand­ing of the role that bat­ter­ies can play, par­tic­u­lar­ly as costs reduce.

Is Intyal­heme and Future Grid a bit like Alice Solar City?
Intyal­heme is build­ing on the suc­cess of Alice Solar City, to achieve next-lev­el renew­able ener­gy uptake. Alice Solar City ran from 2008 to 2013 as part of the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment Solar Cities pro­gramme. Intyal­heme is a Cen­tral Arrernte word mean­ing a fire flar­ing up again”, which alludes to the rich local his­to­ry of renew­able ener­gy projects in Cen­tral Aus­tralia. Intyal­heme invites the com­mu­ni­ty to stay in touch and get involved.