Constraints lifted for West Murray solar farms

West Murray Forum
The West Murray Forum. Image: AEMO

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has provisionally lifted generation constraints imposed on five solar farms in the West Murray Zone, following the successful testing of new tuned inverter settings.

Unprecedented transparency and collaboration across the energy sector helped solve the issue of solar farms producing voltage oscillations following a transmission fault, exceeding regulated power system limits.

AEMO chief system design and engineering officer Alex Wonhas praised the contribution from across the sector and reaffirmed AEMO’s focus to progress assessments of new generation projects in the West Murray Zone now that a solution has been found.

“AEMO is provisionally lifting the constraints but will continue to monitor the generator performance closely. The scale and pace of inverter-based solar and wind generation connected in remote and electrically weak areas of the National Electricity Market, like the West Murray Zone, is presenting unprecedented grid performance and stability issues,” Mr Wonhas said.

“Solving the emergent challenge facing these solar farms required a collective response from many parties to develop a new solution that reduces the likelihood of enforcing constraints on inverter-based generators in areas of low system strength.

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“AEMO would like to recognise and thank the many people who have contributed to overcome this Australian-first challenge as we work together to transform Australia’s energy system.”

In particular, AEMO recognises the collaboration efforts of network businesses, Powercor and TransGrid, the five constrained solar farms and their inverter manufacturer, SMA, along with the Clean Energy Council and contributions from individual businesses.

Powercor general manager electricity networks Steven Neave said a dedicated team of skilled engineers from Powercor worked in close collaboration with AEMO and the solar generators to develop and implement the solution.

“It is really satisfying to see our customers now return to full generation capacity. This also benefits all the household and business customers who depend on reliable electricity supplied by our network,” he said.

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SMA Australia head of service Scott Partlin said, “SMA is extremely pleased and proud of the role we have been able to play in providing a ground-breaking technical solution to our customers and the network, which has seen these curtailments finally lifted. These unique Australian technical challenges were successfully solved by our German-based Research & Development engineers by working closely with AEMO.

“The new capability in our SMA Sunny Central inverters should assist to benefit the Australian power grid as the share of renewables increases. We look forward to continuing to work closely with AEMO to see this new capability realised across our Australian fleet of inverters.”

Edify CEO and founder John Cole said, “We are extremely pleased to have concluded the local and wide area network tests for Gannawarra Solar Farm and anticipated return to full unconstrained export. 

“All parties have worked extremely hard to get to this position. We thank the AEMO and Powercor teams for their outstanding efforts to coordinate 12 local generator tests, and four wide area network tests within a five-day window.”