Power struggles expedite storage

1 February 2017

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) have announced they will work together in prioritising funding for demonstration projects that provide large-scale storage of renewable energy.

ARENA will allocate up to $20 million under its Advancing Renewables Program (ARP) to fund new projects, while the CEFC will offer ARENA funded projects secure long-term debt finance.

Examples for the kind of projects the agencies will support are battery storage, pumped hydro, concentrated solar thermal, biomass and demand management technology.

The announcement responds to a political debate that has started with recent blackouts in South Australia, and concerns that the large-scale integration of renewables in the State's power generation mix may effect energy security.

Potential on-demand delivery of large-scale renewable energy: the Kidston Pumped Hydro Storage Project Images: GENEX

The issue is not new, though. The lack of baseload power that can be provided by solar and wind energy, and the problem of intermittency as the wind picks up and drops again, or the sun is shining and then covered again by a cloud, has marred their use as major components of our energy supply.

And ARENA is already funding a number of projects that work towards large-scale on-demand delivery of renewable energy. They include:

But it is also now becoming clear that at least with the most recent incidences of power blackouts an overreliance on renewables was not to blame. Instead, they had management failures at its core, or were caused by inadequate transmission infrastructure.

This includes a blackout on 8 February in SA. According to a report by the Australian Energy Market operator (AMEO), the amount of wind energy produced at that day had been underestimated, and available gas power capacity had failed to come online.

And for a previous state-wide blackout, which had triggered the political debate, the AMEO clarified that extreme wheather events had caused multiple failures in the transmission system, including the loss of three major 275 kV transmission lines north of Adelaide.

More information: www.arena.gov.au