The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide funding to  Woolnorth’s 168MW Musselroe Wind Farm, Tasmania, for a groundbreaking trial to investigate the economic and commercial potential of wind farms providing frequency control to stabilise the grid.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA will provide $499,120 in grant funding towards the $1 million trial to test the technical capability of Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) but also test the commercial benefits going forward.

Traditionally provided only by coal, gas and hydro-electric power stations, frequency control and ancillary services are used by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to maintain the frequency on the electrical system and provide a fast injection or reduction of energy to maintain grid stability.

AEMO continuously balances energy supply and demand by procuring ‘frequency control ancillary services’ (FCAS) from participating generators and demand response providers.

When frequency is too low, it is increased by FCAS to either increase generation or decrease demand. When frequency is too high, it is reduced by FCAS which lowers generation or increases demand.

In other words, the frequency (and stability) of the grid is maintained by providing a fast injection or reduction of energy.

Minister for Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said unlike coal and gas power stations, wind farms do not currently provide FCAS.

“If both technically and commercially feasible, wind farms across Australia will have the opportunity to contribute to the stability of the grid and develop a new revenue stream that helps lower electricity prices.”

The trial at Musselroe is the second trial to see if wind farms can provide FCAS. In 2017, ARENA partnered with the AEMO to deliver Australia’s first FCAS trial at Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia.

That initial trial began in December 2017 and has proven successful in proving that using wind farms to deliver FCAS is largely technically feasible.

This second study in Tasmania will also examine options to store surplus wind energy when constraints on the network prevent energy from being used.

Located in north east Tasmania, the Musselroe Wind Farm produces approximately five per cent of Tasmania’s electrical energy needs annually.

ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, said a successful trial at Musselroe could see FCAS be delivered by other Australian wind farms.

“Wind power is playing a big part in Australia’s transition to renewable energy and we want to explore how wind can provide essential grid stability services.”

Mr Frischknecht said these two trials are proofs of concepts that if successful will create new revenue streams for wind farms while also providing essential stability to the grid.

“With the support of ARENA and AEMO, Hornsdale finished the live testing of FCAS last month. Now, this second trial at Musselroe will allow us to look not just at technical feasibility but also how this can provide a new revenue stream for wind farms.

“This trial will be able to answer for us the key question that so far hasn’t been answered; does it make economic and commercial sense for a wind farm to provide ancillary services and participate in the FCAS markets?

“It is hoped this will see many more wind farms beginning to help provide FCAS which batteries and solar farms may also be able to deliver.”

General Manager of Woolnorth Wind Farm Holding, Stephen Ross, said very few Australian wind farms provide the network support offered by FCAS.

“This project aims to identify the true capability of wind power to provide system support, how that might work and what benefit there would be in terms of reliability and security at local and system level,” Mr Ross said.

“This is an opportunity to prove that wind farms can contribute to the stability and reliability of the electricity network.”

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