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.