The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing major funding to help New South Wales Transgrid and Infravision trial sensors that will increase capacity to support renewable energy and improve the efficiency of existing transmission lines. Utility spoke with Dan Sturrock, ARENA’s Director in Business Development & Transactions, to discuss the project’s opportunities and challenges.
The critical trial will involve the deployment and testing of Infravision’s Next Generation Line Monitoring System sensors on selected transmission lines on the Transgrid network in New South Wales. The Next Generation Line Monitoring System consists of a sensor stack that can be installed by drone on transmission lines to provide real time microclimate data such as wind speed/ direction, temperature and any sagging of conductors.
ARENA is providing $732,493 in funding for the $1.8 million Infravision project. ARENA’s portion of the funding will assist Infravision to develop, test and trial its hardware and proprietary software to process the data. “Infravision identified a clear opportunity to improve the efficiency of existing network assets with a relatively simple and low cost solution that can efficiently and reliably determine a real-time dynamic line rating (DLR) of transmission lines,” Mr Sturrock said.
Infravision’s line monitoring technology consists of a sensor stack that can be installed by drone on transmission lines to provide real time microclimatic data which can unlock additional transmission line capacity. This data can be used to calculate a DLR that provides a more accurate and responsive measurement of transmission capacity, allowing higher volumes of electricity to be safely dispatched when conditions are suitable.
“Safe line capacity can be affected by wind, temperature and nearby vegetation. Line sag caused by hot weather or high energy flows can cause cables to hang lower than usual, bringing them closer to trees and urban infrastructure that may be located below,” Mr Sturrock said.
“At scale or deployed strategically in congested areas of the grid, this technology could provide the means for the market operator to reduce constraints or curtailment, which in turn will facilitate greater renewable energy export into the grid, potentially delaying and reducing the need for significant network investment upgrades.”
DLR will become increasingly important in a grid with increasing renewable energy generation. Network congestion and curtailment is likely to be a major consideration for planned renewable energy zones where significant volumes of power flows are expected during peak solar hours or periods of high generation.
Major challenges within the trial
Part of ARENA’s funding requirements is the opportunity to share knowledge and learnings with the energy sector. ARENA will work with Infravision to develop and deliver these outcomes. If any challenges do arise from Infravision’s ongoing trial, Mr Sturrock said they will be captured in the knowledge sharing reports that will be made publicly available on ARENA’s website.
“The value of Infravision’s project to ARENA will be in determining whether the proposed technology solution can calculate a real-time DLR with reliability,” Mr Sturrock said. “This will provide broader benefits to market participants in optimising technology solutions to determine DLRs and improving the commercial case for the adoption of these solutions by network owners. This will ultimately provide better tools to determine the potential ability of the technology to reduce renewable energy curtailment.”
Renewable benefits for the industry
As a major trial with government funding, the project’s results – if successful – are likely to have broad benefits to existing industry challenges. “The industry’s existing approaches to working out the operating limit of transmission lines is quite crude and lacking in accuracy. More accurate approaches can be costly, such as using LiDAR (the same technology employed by Infravision) and helicopters,” Mr Sturrock said.
“Other options – such as ‘sag monitors’ – can be expensive and require line outages to install. Their installation process can also expose workers to safety risk if they need to climb the towers. “Infravision has discovered a market niche that doesn’t yet have significant competition or available alternative technologies that are fit for purpose.
The market’s need for technologies that enable an accurate DLR is clear and increasing.” This can also be said for data quality and fidelity on transmission lines across Australia. “Deploying, testing and enhancing a fleet of next generation line sensors on the New South Wales transmission network will provide Transgrid with much higher fidelity data on these lines,” Mr Sturrock said.
“In the 2022 Integrated System Plan, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) identified $12.7 billion of new transmission projects required to underpin the transition to renewable energy over the next decade. “Transgrid’s trial could generate valuable outcomes for network operators, by reducing constraints on renewable energy generators, which also improves network utilisation.”
Key messages from the trial
When asked what key message he hopes utilities and communities will take away from Infravision’s trial, Mr Sturrock said, “We’re hoping people will see why investment in Australian companies, particularly startups, is a great way to ensure Australia achieves net zero emissions by 2050.
“The electricity transition is going to require new generation and transmission on a massive scale. Infravision’s integrated Dynamic Line Rating solution can help get the most out of existing transmission lines.” Allowing an increased flow of electricity through existing assets reduces the need for new infrastructure, keeping down costs for network operators and consumers.
“Infravision is a great example of an Australian startup providing practical solutions to unlocking a higher penetration of renewable generation sooner which can be applicable to the National Electricity Market and other electricity networks across the world,” Mr Sturrock said.