This study was undertaken to quantify the potential benefits of installing CSP generation at constrained network locations in the National Electricity Market (NEM).
In recent years, network costs have been the largest part of overall electricity cost increases in the National Electricity Market (NEM). This is mostly due to the need to build more electricity network infrastructure, such as poles and wires, to meet Australia’s increasing demand for power.
Distributed power generation can avoid the need for such investment if deployed at key points in the network where it is most constrained. Increasing the deployment of decentralised energy options, particularly concentrating solar thermal power (CSP), could enable greater deployment of renewable energy in the electricity system while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
CSP generation offers dispatchable renewable energy, which is suitable for this type of network support. CSP generation can be accompanied by large-scale thermal (heat) energy storage or hybridised with natural gas, biomass or other thermal energy sources, allowing CSP systems to produce electricity when required, day or night.
Integration of CSP into the electricity grid is relatively straightforward in comparison with some other renewable energy options. It may be developed with or without storage, and at a variety of scales. The potential network services offered by CSP are reliable and flexible.
CSP electricity generation has been in commercial operation internationally at utility scale for over 20 years. However, little research has been undertaken into the potential for CSP systems to alleviate grid constraints in electricity networks.
This study was undertaken to quantify the potential benefits of installing CSP generation at constrained network locations in the NEM.
It identified and mapped locations where CSP could provide cost effective network support services, quantified the potential effect of network support payments on the business case for CSP, and engaged network service providers on the potential for use of CSP as an alternative to network augmentation (i.e. building additional poles and wires).
The study found that CSP could avoid the need for network augmentation in 72% of the constrained areas examined, which were identified in 48 locations.
Altogether 93 constraints or constrained areas were considered in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, of which 67 had sufficient information to make a determination.
If constraints were limited to only those locations with higher quality solar resources (better than 21 MJ/m2/day DNI), CSP could avoid the need for augmentation at 94% of the locations.
Recent analyses by the Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO) and the University of NSW investigated the potential for the NEM to be supplied entirely by renewable energy sources, and confirmed its viability.
However, prior to this project, there was no analysis of the potential for renewable energy, and CSP in particular, to address existing and specific projected network constraints.