A 2011 study by the Marine and Atmospheric Research Department at Australia’s national Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that an expected increase in light wind speeds across Australia, due to climate change, could cause wind energy production to vary by several hundred megawatts over the next few years. Delivering this amount of variable power would have serious impacts on the country’s transmission and distribution system.
To address this, a research team from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane is developing a storage and demand management system that would enable power from variable sources, such as wind farms and solar energy systems, to be stored during periods of low demand, and deployed later during periods of high demand. According to Power Engineering Department Chair Professor Gerard Ledwich, an expert in renewable energy, power electronics and inter-state electricity links, the system will help reduce the amount of fossil fuel generation capacity necessary to keep online for backup power supply.
According to Ledwich, about 30 percent of Australia’s distribution system is needed only about 2 percent of the time. Over the past several years, this fact has caused electricity rates to rise, as more transmission lines are needed to deliver power from remote wind farms to population centers. With new power lines costing more than $1 million per kilometer to build, it is more economical to save and store electricity locally.
“The answer lies in creating local responses to overloads, as well as balancing renewables thus providing a more robust network,” Ledwich said. “If we can better store locally the vast amounts of renewable energy Australia is capable of producing, we’ll be able to develop a stronger electricity network and significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.