AGL gets ready for duck curve and high renewables with new gas plant

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AGL is advancing preparations for a rapidly increasing share of wind and solar in South Australia, and the deepening of the so-called “duck curve” in grid demand with the installation of fast-start gas generators at Barkers Inlet near Adelaide.

The company, already the dominant electricity supplier in South Australia, held a press briefing to unveil the first of 12 fast-start reciprocating engines that will total 210MW and ultimately replace the ageing generators at the Torrens A gas plant.

AGL’s head of Gas and Renewables operations Colin Mills said the $295 million plant – due to start later this year – would increase energy reliability and security in South Australia, and will be able to ramp up to full capacity within five minutes.

This will be very useful for AGL as the market undergoes significant reform, primarily with the switch from 30-minute settlement periods (which were deemed to favour gaming of markets with large and slow starting equipment), to a 5-minute settlement period that will favour battery storage and units such as these.

Policy Acts of 2002 and 2005.

It will also help the grid operator deal with an ever increasing amount of wind and solar in the grid. South Australia already sources more than 50 per cent of its electricity demand from variable supply sources, with the 215MW Lincoln Gap wind farm nearing completion and the Tailem Bend solar farm beginning production.

Many other wind and solar projects are in the pipeline, and with the growing uptake of rooftop solar this is expected to deepen the so-called “duck curve” that occurs when domestic and commercial solar dampens demand in the middle of the day, and then tails off into the evening.

Time for a #duckcurve update! How rooftop solar has changed the November demand profile in South Australia over the past 7 years: pic.twitter.com/TsGEDK8oXB

— Dylan McConnell (@dylanjmcconnell)

The Australian Energy Market Operator has predicted that “minimum” grid demand may fall to near zero within a few years as rooftop solar capacity grows, and it has also predicted that South Australia will head towards generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of its electricity demand from wind and solar with 7 to 8 years.

“This will be a high efficiency plant which is a good fit for the South Australian market and will efficiently and cost-effectively complement the high renewable energy mix we see today and expect to continue to see in the future,” Mills said in a statement.

Examples of renewable sources are: biomass (wood, wood waste, municipal solid waste, landfill gas, ethanol

“With significant wind generation in South Australia it’s more important than ever to have dispatchable capacity such as the Barker Island Power Station in our portfolio which can be switched on to bolster energy supply when the market needs it.

“The project demonstrates our support for an orderly transition to a carbon-constrained future by helping phase out some of the old generation at the nearby Torrens A Power Station and replacing it with new more efficient technology producing less greenhouse gas per unit of electricity generated.”

He said the new power station is 28 per cent more efficient than the units it will replace, meaning that it will reduce emissions and costs. The four Torrens B turbines will continue to operate as normal.

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