WA joins SA in solar curtailment plan

Sun shines brightly on solar panel (curtailment)
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Western Australia (WA) has joined South Australia in having the curtailment authority to turn off household solar systems at times when the electricity network is deemed to be under severe stress, ABC News reported.

With Australia’s solar installations reaching a record 25GW milestone in January, WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston said the new curtailment rules were a response to the challenges posed by surging solar output.

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Under the regulations, customers installing new or upgraded solar panels will be required to have inverters that allow authorities to switch off production in emergency situations.

Johnston said such circumstances would only occur a few times a year and would typically last for only a few hours.

Monash Energy Institute Professor Ariel Liebman said giving the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) power to turn off household solar systems was a “totally reasonable ‘emergency backstop’ response” to an unprecedented situation.

“No other continental grid has ever had our per-capita of rooftop solar capacity,” Prof Liebman said.

“There is currently no way of diverting or storing the excess renewable energy at scale to deal with the potential risk to grid stability. Curtailing solar and wind power is the only immediate and reliable option.

“This could have been avoided if Australian policy makers had not been missing in action on grid reform for more than 10 years as renewables started to grow strongly. We urgently need coordinated policy, and the funding of research and development. Unfortunately we can’t use international solutions on this as we are leading the charge. We therefore need homegrown innovation to address these issues.

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“Coal power stations tend to be more unreliable during hot weather. Solar power from household rooftop panels helps during the hottest periods such as around midday and afternoons but in the evening when it’s still hot, the unreliability of coal stations during the heat means there can still be some risks. There is a need to replace ageing power stations with a more affordable, reliable and flexible combination of wind, solar and batteries.”

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