Testing facility teams with Alice Springs Future Grid

A solar power station situated near a Town Camp in Alice Springs (Solar Connect VPP)
A solar power station situated near a Town Camp in Alice Springs (Image: Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy)

The Alice Springs Future Grid project has teamed up with Charles Darwin University (CDU) to test the capacity of battery and solar inverters to provide support services to the electricity grid. 

Testing will be undertaken at CDU’s Renewable Energy Microgrid Hub for Applied Research and Training (REMHART) in Darwin. 

The primary technology tested will be three residential inverters. CDU’s investigations will include testing the ability of the inverters to respond to changes in frequency in the network and determining if the devices can provide a reliable response, which could be used in Essential System Services (ESS). In real-world application this means renewable energy technologies could be used to prevent power cuts or other interruptions to electricity supply. 

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Future Grid project director Lyndon Frearson from Alice Springs engineering firm Ekistica said CDU’s ability to facilitate this testing underscored how new opportunities, trials and partnerships can be developed in the Northern Territory. 

“The experts at CDU’s REMHART facility have been working alongside the Alice Springs Future Grid project since its inception,” Frearson said. 

“One of the great opportunities we have in the Northern Territory is the variety of organisations that have an interest in the energy sector and in working together to achieve the 50 per cent by 2030 renewable energy target,” he said. 

“Through these partnerships we are able to bring an incredible range of skilled and dedicated people along with us, on this journey.” 

Individual solar, hybrid and battery inverters have now been installed and will be tested for ESS response characteristics including delay time, ramp time and maximum charge/discharge power outputs under different load and generation scenarios. Findings will assist in measuring how residential inverters can provide services to the grid. 

Director of the Energy and Resources Institute at CDU, Professor Suresh Thennadil, said it was exciting to work with Future Grid given the significant impact it will have on working towards the NT’s goal of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. 

“This is a great opportunity for our researchers to apply their skills to challenges relevant to industry and our communities, while at same time developing their connections with Future Grid partner organisations,” Prof. Thennadil said. 

“The REMHART facility at CDU is an industry-focused innovation and training hub. The inverter testing via the Future Grid project will demonstrate REMHART’s ability to bring together industry and academic researchers. Additionally, we expect the results from this study to inform our future research direction,” he said. 

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Delivery of the Alice Springs Future Grid project is coordinated by the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy, on behalf of Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA). Future Grid is supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Government. 

Findings from the various activities of Future Grid, including the testing carried out by CDU, will be considered for inclusion in the Alice Springs Roadmap to 2030 report—anticipated for publication in 2023. 

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