The Alice Springs Future Grid project encom­pass­es a series of sub-projects, each incor­po­rat­ing tech­ni­cal, reg­u­la­to­ry, social and eco­nom­ic ele­ments. They are inter­de­pen­dent and designed to holis­ti­cal­ly trans­form Alice Springs into a robust, dynam­ic, renew­able Future Grid. 

The Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy leads deliv­ery of the Alice Springs Future Grid project as a whole, but each sub-project has its own lead, as follows: 

Sub-project 1 – Modelling

As the amount of renew­able ener­gy in the Alice Springs grid increas­es, inter­ven­tions are required to reduce ther­mal gen­er­a­tion (e.g. gas and diesel), while main­tain­ing the sta­bil­i­ty of the elec­tric­i­ty sys­tem. Mod­el­ling is a cru­cial step before sig­nif­i­cant changes are enact­ed, to opti­mise out­comes and avoid sys­tem dis­rup­tions. This sub-project on sys­tem mod­el­ling, led by Ekisti­ca, is inves­ti­gat­ing tech­ni­cal chal­lenges, as well as account­ing for finan­cial and con­sumer behav­iour – fac­tors rarely includ­ed in tech­ni­cal models.

Sub-project 2 – Com­mer­cial Microgrid

Pri­vate­ly oper­at­ed renew­able ener­gy micro­grids may play an impor­tant role in future grids. A key fea­ture of a micro­grid is the abil­i­ty to oper­ate inde­pen­dent­ly from the main grid and to poten­tial­ly island” for peri­ods of time. Grid-con­nect­ed micro­grids based on renew­able ener­gy are not com­mon in reg­u­lat­ed net­works. This sub-project is con­duct­ing fea­si­bil­i­ty stud­ies at poten­tial sites for a com­mer­cial micro­grid in Alice Springs, with mul­ti­ple ten­ants and cus­tomers. The team seeks to iden­ti­fy and over­come tech­ni­cal and reg­u­la­to­ry bar­ri­ers through a micro­grid tri­al, and under­stand lia­bil­i­ties for sup­ply dur­ing peri­ods of dis­con­nec­tion from the network.

Sub-project 3 – Com­mu­ni­ty Solutions

The con­sis­tent enthu­si­asm of Alice Springs res­i­dents for rooftop solar is accel­er­at­ing the need to pro­vide extra sup­port to the elec­tric­i­ty net­work, through the instal­la­tion of house­hold bat­ter­ies. As well as stor­ing ener­gy for lat­er use, bat­ter­ies can pro­vide oth­er ser­vices cru­cial to pow­er sys­tem oper­a­tion. When mul­ti­ple bat­ter­ies are linked through a Vir­tu­al Pow­er Plant (VPP), such ser­vices can be bun­dled up (aggre­gat­ed) and direct­ed by the sys­tem con­troller. A VPP — planned to be the first in the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry – is being cre­at­ed in Alice Springs. Cus­tomer engage­ment will under­pin the suc­cess of this sub-project, which is led by the Arid Lands Envi­ron­ment Cen­tre (ALEC).

Sub-project 4 –Tar­iff Reform

The Tar­iff Reform sub-project is led by Jacana Ener­gy. While North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy deter­mines the tar­iffs that Jacana can pro­vide, the test­ing and devel­op­ment of new tar­iffs remains impor­tant. Tar­iffs can be a use­ful tool in chang­ing ener­gy usage pat­terns and to incen­tivise the uptake of tech­nolo­gies, includ­ing bat­ter­ies and solar. The tar­iff reform sub-project will explore options for time-of-use elec­tric­i­ty tar­iffs and a month­ly VPP par­tic­i­pa­tion cred­it. Tar­iff tri­als will help the team learn how cus­tomers respond to dif­fer­ent price sig­nals and the effect of their altered behav­iour on the pow­er system.

Sub-project 5 – Future Grid Deployments

This mul­ti-faceted sub-project will cul­mi­nate in the deliv­ery of a Roadmap towards 2030’ report for Alice Springs. This will iden­ti­fy the opti­mal path­ways and time­lines for achiev­ing the North­ern Territory’s tar­get of 50% renew­able ener­gy by 2030, on the Alice Springs grid. Var­i­ous tech­ni­cal inves­ti­ga­tions will be deliv­ered under this sub-project, led by the Pow­er and Water Cor­po­ra­tion. Activ­i­ties include enhanced fore­cast­ing of solar and load, a dynam­ic export tri­al for sites that are typ­i­cal­ly lim­it­ed in the amount of solar pow­er they can export, and the explo­ration of new dynam­ic oper­a­tional pro­ce­dures. The aim is to pro­vide more options for Sys­tem Con­trol to min­imise the amount of ther­mal gen­er­a­tion (i.e. gas and diesel) required.