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ElectraNet’s Davenport Substation, near Port Augusta in the north of South Australia, has received its first of two synchronous condensers for installation.

The synchronous condenser was transported under police escort to the Davenport Substation site.

ElectraNet Chief Executive, Steve Masters, said the arrival and transportation of the synchronous condenser was an important next step in improving the strength and reliability of South Australia’s electricity network.

“As more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power are connected to the electricity network, we don’t have the same level of system strength that was generated by conventional synchronous generators, which are now being used less often,” Mr Masters said.

“This has created a shortfall in system strength and inertia in our power network, increasing the risk of system instability and supply interruptions.

“To respond to this and in order to ensure South Australian power customers have a secure power supply, we will be installing four synchronous condensers, two at Davenport and two at Robertstown.”

Mr Masters said the first synchronous condenser, along with a second that is due for arrival by the end of May, will be installed at the Davenport Substation site and energised by the end of 2020.

“Construction crews have been working at the Davenport site over the past ten months to prepare it for the arrival of these huge and critical pieces of power infrastructure. Each one weighs in at more than 170 tonnes, is more than 5m tall and 8m long,” Mr Masters said.

“Currently, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has to direct generators to operate at certain times to maintain adequate levels of system strength in South Australia. These directions are costly and add to customer electricity bills.

“By comparison the synchronous condensers are estimated to deliver a net saving to customers equivalent to $3 to $5 per year on a typical South Australian residential electricity bill from the time of commissioning.”

A system strength shortfall was declared by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) on 13 October 2017 and a shortfall in inertia was declared on 24 December 2018.

A secure power system needs adequate levels of system strength and inertia, which to date have been provided by traditional synchronous generators.

A lack of system strength or inertia on the power system brings with it an increased risk of system instability and supply interruptions.

System strength relates to the ability of a power system to manage minor fluctuations in supply or demand while maintaining stable voltage levels, ensuring stable and secure supply for customers.

Inertia relates to the ability of a power system to manage fluctuations in supply or demand while maintaining stable system frequency.

A further two synchronous condensers, to be installed at Robertstown, will arrive in Adelaide towards the end of 2020. They will become operational by the middle of 2021.

South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, said, “The installation of the synchronous condensers will help deliver cheaper, more reliable electricity to South Australian households and businesses.”

The synchronous condenser project is estimated to cost about $190 million. In August 2019, the Australian Energy Regulator approved funding for the capital cost of the synchronous condensers.

The two synchronous condensers to be installed at Davenport have been designed and manufactured by GE. The two synchronous condensers that will be installed at Robertstown will be designed and manufactured by Siemens.

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