New research could end variability of renewables

Research aims to look at the local options in power grids to reduce peaks and dips associated with renewable energy and cut fossil fuel use.

Work by Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will, according to academics, aim to overcome one of the ‘main hurdles’ to increased use of wind and solar energy.

QUT’s chairman in power engineering, professor Gerard Ledwich, said because renewable generation ‘was not predictable’ other power sources had to be used to supplement it.

However, he hopes to develop storage and demand management systems to make sure renewably generated power can be better stored during low usage times for use in peak periods.

For instance, currently, Australia’s energy grid can’t accept wind generated energy accounting for more than 20% of the total power generated in the country.

The work will focus on creating local hubs able to store and distribute renewable energy more effectively.

The professor will run a three-year project looking into the electricity network accommodating high levels of renewables has been allocated $320,000 from the Australian Research Council and will work alongside researchers in Singapore and China.

Professor Ledwich explains: “Winds are variable and solar power isn’t always available during peak evening usage times but essentially neither can be guaranteed to be present.

“Our aim is to develop new storage and management systems to better harness all of the electricity sources available and give the electricity grid greater strength. This will benefit all electricity users, not only those in remote locations.”

“We need capacity to store renewable energy when it’s available and also provide remote customers of this energy with electricity when it’s not.

“The answer lies in creating local responses to overloads as well as balancing renewables thus providing a more robust network.”

“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.”

Luke Walsh

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