The Alice Springs Future Grid project encom­pass­es a series of sub-projects, each incor­po­rat­ing tech­ni­cal, reg­u­la­to­ry, social and eco­nom­ic ele­ments. They are designed to holis­ti­cal­ly trans­form Alice Springs into a robust, dynam­ic, renew­able Future Grid. You can read more details below, but in brief, these are the areas of inves­ti­ga­tion for each of the main sub-projects: 

  • Sub-project 1 – Mod­el­ling:
    What are the key tech­ni­cal chal­lenges cur­rent­ly fac­ing Alice Springs, and why? How can tech­ni­cal, eco­nom­ic and behav­iour­al mod­el­ling devel­op a clear renew­ables plan for the pow­er system?
  • Sub-project 2 – Com­mer­cial Micro­grid:
    What are the reg­u­la­to­ry and tech­ni­cal impli­ca­tions of man­ag­ing a com­mer­cial micro­grid, includ­ing an under­stand­ing of who car­ries the lia­bil­i­ties for sup­ply dur­ing peri­ods of disconnection?
  • Sub-project 3 – Com­mu­ni­ty Solu­tions:
    What is the role of the com­mu­ni­ty in the future grid? What new ser­vices can be pro­vid­ed, such as volt­age and fre­quen­cy con­trol and pay­ment for those services?
  • Sub-project 4 –Tar­iff Reform:
    How can tar­iff designs best be imple­ment­ed to incen­tivise large-scale behav­iour shifts?
  • Sub-project 5 – Future Grid Deploy­ments:
    What plat­form is required to aggre­gate the new suite of tools for Sys­tem Con­trol, includ­ing advanced solar fore­cast­ing? How will this reduce spin­ning reserve, and what new (non-PV) tech­nolo­gies are avail­able that were up until recent­ly uneco­nom­i­cal? Ulti­mate­ly, how do we reach 50% renew­able ener­gy pen­e­tra­tion by 2030, in the Alice Springs pow­er system? 

The detail

Sub-project 1 – Modelling

In order to oper­ate the Alice Springs grid with reduced ther­mal gen­er­a­tion, it is cru­cial that pro­posed changes are accu­rate­ly mod­elled before being enact­ed, to opti­mise out­comes and avoid fail­ures. A Pow­er­Fac­to­ry mod­el­ling tool will be used for this pur­pose, to opti­mise next-steps as the mix of cen­tralised and dis­trib­uted gen­er­a­tion changes over time. Finan­cial and tech­ni­cal vari­ables will be input and con­sumer behav­iour account­ed for — a fac­tor rarely includ­ed in tech­ni­cal mod­els but expect­ed to be sig­nif­i­cant when pre­dict­ing future hard­ware con­fig­u­ra­tions. Future Grid will seek to under­stand what dri­ves peo­ple and com­pa­nies to invest in renew­able ener­gy tech­nol­o­gy, and what sys­tem secu­ri­ty thresh­old they’re will­ing to accept. A sep­a­rate stream of SP1 will focus on mea­sur­ing the exist­ing wind resource in Alice Springs. The cost and effi­cien­cy of wind tur­bines is improv­ing and may soon be a viable option for pow­er gen­er­a­tion. This would be an impor­tant addi­tion to the town’s only exist­ing renew­able resource – the sun. The mod­el­ling sub-project will be led by Alice Springs tech­ni­cal con­sul­tan­cy Ekisti­ca. A major out­come will be clear rec­om­men­da­tions on the approach to achiev­ing 50 per cent renew­able ener­gy by 2030; includ­ing mod­el­ling of zero ther­mal (gas) gen­er­a­tion dur­ing day­light hours. 

Sub-project 2 – Com­mer­cial Microgrid

Pri­vate­ly oper­at­ed, renew­able ener­gy micro­grids will play an impor­tant role in future grids; island­ing them­selves when eco­nom­ic or oper­a­tional con­di­tions are favourable. How­ev­er, the incen­tives for form­ing micro­grids are lim­it­ed when oper­at­ing stan­dards and reg­u­la­tions are not in place or too con­ser­v­a­tive. The Com­mer­cial Micro­grid sub-project will be led by the own­er of a new­ly-installed micro­grid (site to be con­firmed). The project seeks to deter­mine how users (includ­ing ten­ants) will tol­er­ate island­ing and dis­rup­tions, iden­ti­fy reg­u­la­to­ry bar­ri­ers to imple­men­ta­tion, tri­al a man­age­ment sys­tem with the Sys­tem Con­troller, and inves­ti­gate who car­ries the lia­bil­i­ty for sup­ply dur­ing peri­ods of dis­con­nec­tion from the network.

Sub-project 3 – Com­mu­ni­ty Solutions

This sub-project seeks to deter­mine the role of the com­mu­ni­ty in the future grid. The first task will be to under­stand and opti­mise the appetite of house­holds and small busi­ness­es in the future grid to install bat­ter­ies with their PV sys­tems. The sub-project team will test the aggre­ga­tion of those bat­ter­ies as a vir­tu­al pow­er plant, which the Sys­tem Con­troller can utilise to man­age grid sta­bil­i­ty. Com­mu­ni­ty Solu­tions will be imple­ment­ed in par­al­lel with sub-project 4, Tar­iff Reform. The tri­al will run for 12 months, dur­ing which time the project team will active­ly track the per­for­mance of the sys­tems, includ­ing the extent to which the aggre­gat­ing tech­nol­o­gy pro­vides vis­i­bil­i­ty to the retail­er and sys­tem oper­a­tor. The sig­nif­i­cant com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment ele­ment in this sub-project is the basis upon which the Arid Lands Envi­ron­ment Cen­tre has been appoint­ed as the project lead. 

Sub-project 4 –Tar­iff Reform

Run­ning in par­al­lel with the Com­mu­ni­ty Solu­tions sub-project, alter­na­tives to the 1:1 feed-in tar­iff (FiT) will be tri­alled at house­holds with bat­ter­ies. Recent changes mean the 1:1 FiT is no longer avail­able for new PV instal­la­tions and a bat­tery rebate is now offered, but test­ing of addi­tion­al tar­iffs that incen­tivise bat­ter­ies remains impor­tant. The Tar­iff Reform sub-project will pro­vide shad­ow tar­iffs to cus­tomers who take part, pro­vid­ing finan­cial reward if the shad­ow tar­iff proves suc­cess­ful. The shad­ow tar­iffs will be based on the idea that pay­ments can be made for ancil­lary ser­vices pro­vid­ed by house­hold bat­ter­ies. Ener­gy retail­er Jacana Ener­gy will lead this sub-project, with out­comes includ­ing a quan­tifi­able under­stand­ing of con­sumer appetite for new tar­iff mod­els, and the incen­tives need­ed to dri­ve large-scale behav­iour change.

Sub-project 5 – Future Grid Deployments

This mul­ti-faceted sub-project will cul­mi­nate in the deliv­ery of a Roadmap towards 2030’ report that iden­ti­fies opti­mal path­ways and time­lines for achiev­ing high renew­able ener­gy pen­e­tra­tion on the Alice Springs grid. It will be led by Pow­er and Water Cor­po­ra­tion. A dynam­ic dis­patch stream will tri­al the incor­po­ra­tion of cloud fore­cast­ing tech­nol­o­gy into the grid dis­patch sys­tem, with load mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment at sites guid­ed by the mod­el­ling sub-project. This will pro­vide greater flex­i­bil­i­ty for Sys­tem Con­trol to min­imise ther­mal spin­ning reserve. In par­al­lel, a stream called Dynam­ic Export will incor­po­rate the dynam­ic con­trol of a PV sys­tem at a local school, mak­ing best use of spilt solar at times when build­ings are most­ly unoc­cu­pied dur­ing week­ends and holidays.