Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

The South Australian grid has witnessed yet another change in its world-leading transition to 100 per cent renewable energy, with the market operator turning production from state-owned gas generators down to unprecedented low levels.

South Australia often runs on more than 100 percent renewable energy, with surplus supplies sent to Victoria and, in smaller quantities, stored in one of the state’s three large batteries or the thousands of household batteries.

Some gas production – even when there is enough wind and solar production to meet all local demand – is usually required to deliver “synchronous production”, which is considered crucial to maintaining system power and keeping the grid in a safe state. (South Australia has no coal and no pumped hydropower).

But the amount of gas needed for this task is shrinking rapidly. Until recently, a minimum of 240MW was considered crucial for the task, but the installation of spinning machines known as synchronous capacitors, which do not burn fuel, has meant less gas production.

As we reported last week, during periods of high renewable energy, minimum gas production was halved to around 120 MW when syncons came on the scene, and now it has fallen again – to around 80 MW, which means that fossil fuels sometimes accounted for less than five per. percent of total production in the state.

See: South Australia is taking another big leap towards 100 percent wind and sun

As this next graph shows, South Australia started running at the new lowest level for fossil gas at. 20.00 (AEST) Thursday night and still drove in this condition until after 1030 AEST on Friday.

Source: OPENNem. Please click to expand.

Only two units at the Torrens B gas generator were in operation (at about 40 MW each), and gas accounted for less than five percent of total demand over the 24-hour period. Wind and solar accounted for 112 percent of local demand, while the rest was stored or exported.

As energy expert Craig Fryer noted in a Facebook post, South Australia now has four syncons and two grid batteries (Dalrymple North and Hornsdale) that can provide system inertia and grid stability.

“While synchronous capacitors provide a form of short-term spinning inertia like a traditional generator, they do not burn fossil fuels to provide this service. They draw their necessary energy from the grid, which will normally be renewable energy,” he writes.

“The development of grid-forming inverters to provide synthetic inertia means that grid inertia and stability services can be provided by grid-scale batteries, wind and solar farms.

So far, AEMO has only approved grid scale batteries with grid-forming inverters to provide synthetic inertia, but over time this service should be able to be provided by wind and solar parks. This means that there is no longer a need to keep burning fossil fuels just for to provide network inertia and stability. “

AEMO has not yet stated what the next step will be in phasing out fossil gas-based production for grid inertia and stability services in southern Australia.

But as RenewEconomy exclusively reported earlier this week, a new $ 100 million round of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency will encourage more network-forming inverters to enter the market on a large scale to demonstrate what they can do.

See: New ARENA funding round to help close one of the last gaps to 100 per cent. renewable energy networks

And as Fryer notes, lowering the minimum requirement for fossil gas-based production in southern Australia from 240 MW to 80 MW will have a significant impact on the level of fossil fuels used for electricity production in southern Australia.

Over the past 12 months, South Australia has received 62% of its electricity needs from renewable sources, including wind and solar parks plus solar energy on the roof.

But in the last month, the share of renewable energy has risen to almost 80 percent. And in the last 24 hours, the average share of wind and solar in the South Australian grid was more than 112 per cent of local demand, while the rest was exported along with a soup gas.

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