Powerlink Queensland launches ‘system strength as a service’ model in deal with Neoen


Back in May, a study was partially funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to analyse the system strength issues that have been an ongoing challenge for renewable energy generation in the National Electricity Market, particularly Queensland.  

The study was carried out by transmission network service provider Powerlink Queensland, which is now set to become the first transmission company in Australia to deliver system strength services, a new foundation for clean energy projects in the Sunshine State. 

This week, Powerlink signed a deal with global renewable energy giant Neoen to deliver said system strength support to its new 157 MW Kaban Green Power Hub in Far North Queensland through the installation of a synchronous condenser, a machine capable of compensating either a leading or lagging power factor by absorbing or supplying reactive power to the transmission line. Typically installed in substations, their system strength capacities are ideal for asynchronous generators like solar and wind. 

The ‘system strength as a service’ model, says Powerlink Chief Executive, Paul Simshauser, is an innovative way to address one of the most significant issues facing transmission networks in Australia. Indeed, Powerlink and Neoen are not alone in pursuing this model, in August Edify Energy and Uk-based investor Octopus announced that the 275 MW (AC)/333 MW (DC) Darlington Point Solar Farm in New South Wales’ West Murray Zone had been connected to the grid in part due to the two synchronous condensers installed on site. 

“Far North Queensland has some of the best renewable resources in Australia,” continued Simshauser. “By providing new system strength support, Powerlink is laying the foundation for potentially hundreds of additional megawatts of clean energy in the state’s north.” 

North Queensland is one of several parts of the NEM, including the West Murray Zone, that have inherent system strength issues, meaning that new projects have to incur the added cost of supplying their own system strength support to a grid that should be adapting to them, not the other way round. 

Powerlink’s solution is not save projects the hassle of having to supply their own custom synchronous condenser by installing a larger synchronous condenser and then on-selling its system strength capacity to multiple projects. Not only does this save projects money, but by its own inherent model, it is guaranteed economies of scale. 

“It will allow us to continue to connect large scale renewable projects throughout Queensland while still ensuring the security of the transmission network,” Simshauser furthered. “Powerlink is laughing this model in Far North Queensland, but we believe it can potentially be rolled out accross the state helping to achieve the Queensland Government’s 50% renewable energy target.” 

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