Weekend read: First notes of a West Australian symphony

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From pv magazine 06/2022

The way energy is generated, managed and consumed is rapidly changing. Driven by near-perfect solar conditions and consumer desire for cleaner, lower-cost energy, one in three households in Western Australia (WA) now has rooftop solar. In energy terms, this is equivalent to almost 2 GW of renewable energy capacity, collectively representing the largest and cleanest source of electricity generation on the South West Interconnected System (SWIS).

In response to the rapidly changing sector, the WA government developed and is in the process of delivering its distributed energy resources (DER) Roadmap. Project Symphony is a key part of this strategy. The pilot project has been designed to “orchestrate” approximately 900 DER assets across 500 homes and businesses into a Virtual Power Plant (VPP). The project is being conducted in the south of the state’s capital city, Perth.

Delivered in collaboration between distribution system operator Western Power, state-owned utility Synergy, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), and the WA state government, the project aims to understand the opportunities and challenges of increasing DER and how it can be managed through the orchestration of VPPs. It is piloting a version of the “Open Energy Networks” (OpEN) hybrid model, which defines roles and responsibilities for transitioning to a two-way power grid, enabling better integration of DER.

New turf

What makes Project Symphony unique is that while ensuring the energy system can respond to challenges during times of peak distributed solar generation, it is also aiming to deliver more value to customers by enabling them to participate in future energy and services markets with their rooftop-generated energy. In contrast to manufacturer-led VPP programs, the project also incorporates solar inverters from a large number of partners.

Recently, the project achieved a significant milestone with the successful testing of intelligent systems that are required to simulate the orchestration of 200 kW of energy over a bi-directional balancing market trading interval. The system integration testing saw seven organisations, including technology and project partners across five different time zones, conduct 20 integration tests over five days. Of the test scenarios conducted, 19 were successful with a single relatively minor issue to be rectified as part of future testing.

The testing involved the partners’ platforms communicating with each other, providing both instructions and responses that support real electron flow changes to and from DER, whilst engaging with a simulated market environment. This included Synergy registering a facility comprised of aggregated DER determining its available capacity for a trading interval and incorporating a basic Dynamic Operating Envelope (DoE) at the National Metering Identifier (NMI) level, published to Synergy by Western Power such that the aggregator can prepare and provide a market submission to AEMO. Synergy also managed customer assets from load to generation, to meet AEMO’s dispatch instructions. Western Power monitored the network during the scenario.

Project Symphony Program Manager Andrew Blaver said the successful integration was a critical milestone for the project and in planning for the future of the Western Australian energy system. “This is exciting for the project and for the people of Western Australia, as it marks the beginning of the electricity system understanding how households and businesses could experience broader financial and environmental benefits from their energy assets,” Blaver said. “Central to the success of Symphony is its customers, as owners of distributed energy assets, their willingness to participate in the project is essential.”

He added; “Customers who have signed up to participate are investing in clean energy and utilising their systems to participate in a VPP. They are paving the way to a more sustainable energy future with benefits for the broader community.”

Further testing is already underway, and the focus will be on improvements in automation between the integration layers of the systems, including enabling the aggregator to receive automatic dispatch instructions from AEMO and then set an automatic dispatch of the aggregated facility into the market. Project Symphony will continue to integrate more customers, including third party aggregators, and test different use case scenarios until the VPP system “stability period” commences, currently planned for October 2022.

Project Symphony has received support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of ARENA’s Advanced Renewables Program and the WA state government. 

About the author

Megan Allan has worked in the West Australian energy sector for over 14 years and is currently the Stakeholder and Communication Lead for Project Symphony.

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