Half of Australia’s solar and wind farms to trial providing their own short-term generation forecasts

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At least 45% of registered wind and solar capacity in the National Electricity Market (NEM) will trial providing their own short-term generation forecasts, under a funding initiative by ARENA in partnership with AEMO. The trials will provide test cases for wind and solar to do their own five-minute forecasts just as traditional power plants do.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA has awarded $9.41 million to 11 projects which collectively cover a total of 3.5 GW of renewable electricity generation. The funding will help to explore the potential for wind and solar farms to provide their own, more accurate, forecasts of their output into AEMO’s central dispatch system.

“Working with AEMO, we’re supporting these trials to help avoid generators being unfairly penalized for inaccurate forecasts while also supporting system security by better matching demand with anticipated supply from variable renewable generators,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said. “Much like traditional energy generators, we’re aiming to show that renewable energy is now capable of providing accurate measurement of energy output.”

Currently, AEMO is responsible for forecasting how much electricity will be generated by wind and solar farms. If these supply forecasts are wrong or generators cannot meet their target, it can result in power system instability and higher operating costs. On top of that, wind and solar farms are penalized for not meeting a required output level or can be required to curtail their generation to match an overly conservative forecast.

“With almost half of all solar and wind power generation taking part in projects in this initiative, this will lead to better deals for wind and solar farms, lower costs and more accurate data for AEMO,” Miller said, noting that the trial is a win-win for all market participants.

The projects will also investigate forecasting technology and factors that affect the accuracy of forecasts in different weather, operational conditions and geographies, as some solar and wind farms will test several different technologies, while some technologies will be tested across multiple sites.

Under the market changes that AEMO has facilitated as part of this initiative, all wind and solar farms registered in the NEM will be able to submit their own five-minute ahead forecasts to AEMO, for use in central dispatch in order to improve the accuracy of market outcomes. The ARENA-funded trial will be exploring the benefits that this new capability brings to the system.

“Weather is the fuel for an ever-increasing proportion of the electricity generated across Australia, so it is vitally important that we foster innovation and rapid development of world leading technologies and services,” said AEMO’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Audrey Zibelman. “As the market operator, we require the best possible information in real-time to manage the secure and reliable delivery of energy to Australian consumers, 24/7.”

Selected projects 

After it announced it was looking for expressions of interest for the trial in March last year, ARENA has now unveiled the portfolio of 11 projects to trial short-term forecasting at large-scale wind and solar farms across Australia.

The projects will involve a range of weather forecasting technologies including onsite cloud cameras that can predict the timing and impact of a passing clouds on a solar farm, wind speed radars, Japanese weather satellites, infrared, crunching of Bureau of Meteorology data and machine learning algorithms.

The list of funding recipients include: Windlab, Industrial Monitoring & Control, Meridian Energy Australia, Solar and Storage Modeling, Advisian, DNV GL, Fulcrum3D, Vestas Australian Wind Technology, Aeolius Wind Systems and Proa Analytics.

Under the program, Fulcrum3D was awarded two grants to demonstrate both its solar and wind forecasting technology on almost 300 MW across four states, including Genex’s Kidston 1 Solar Project.