Solar panel farm at sunset located in South Australia

Australia’s renewable capacity set to grow with smart energy management and storage solutions

The need for smart, effective energy management systems has never been greater as the world seeks to maximise the use of renewable energy sources. Wärtsilä has developed specific features of its GEMS energy management system for Australia, a country with high potential for growth in renewables. 

Text: Isabelle Kliger Photo: 123RF

Last year, Australia achieved its Renewable Energy Target to obtain 33,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, but this is just the start. The country is exceptionally well positioned to further increase its renewable energy capability, especially in the form of wind and solar power. However, its installed capacity remains surprisingly inflexible, with coal accounting for about 60% of total generation. Additionally, Australia has a complex energy system, consisting of a number of wholesale and retail markets, electricity and gas systems, which poses additional challenges. 

Wärtsilä’s GEMS energy management solution has the potential to add considerable value to Australia’s burgeoning renewable energy market. GEMS, which controls storage and enables renewable integration at increments of 100 milliseconds, makes use of artificial intelligence (AI), advanced machine learning, and both historic and real-time data analytics to calibrate the type of energy generation required at any given time. 

“GEMS enables the integration of more renewables, which leads to less dependence on coal and other fossil fuels. The system features a ‘Fleet Director’ module, which optimises the dispatch of the various assets, in order to capture the most value on the merchant market,” explains Loïc Charmoille, Business Development Manager, Wärtsilä Energy Business.

Maximising value with auto-bidding Down Under

Backed by Wärtsilä’s wide-ranging power plant expertise – from engine-based power plants to utility-scale solar plants and hybrids – GEMS is ready to take control of all kinds of energy generators. GEMS maximises revenue streams on merchant markets by integrating real-time market and weather data.

Charmoille says that GEMS has a lot to offer the Australian market. 

“GEMS will enable Australian energy companies to maximise the value for their generated electricity by automatically bidding into the different merchant markets (Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) and arbitrage). This works for any kind of plant, including battery storage systems,” Charmoille says.

In recent years, solutions such as Energy Storage Systems (ESS) have grown increasingly popular for use in energy arbitrage or firming of renewable energy generation. ESS are able to store renewable energy for future use, allowing the energy to be dispatched at a suitable time, when demand and prices are high. This capability is particularly useful in optimising energy for the two most popular types of renewable energy – wind and solar, which generate power intermittently.  

The Australian mining sector is showing an interest in energy storage as it looks to de-carbonise through the increasing use of utility-scale solar or wind generation, often integrated with thermal generation. In this use case, energy storage has the critical role of providing resilience to the power system of a mine site, given the intermittency in generation that renewables introduce, which is especially important where wind and solar make large contributions to the overall energy mix. Australia’s biggest mining businesses, such as Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group, Oz Minerals, and Woodside Petroleum, have set renewable energy targets in order to reduce volatility and increase the sustainability of their operations. 

Thomas Hellmich, Business Development Manager, Wärtsilä Energy Business, believes GEMS is the missing link that enables the reliable integration of solar or wind generation for existing thermal generation assets or greenfield engine power plants in off-grid energy systems.

“Given the remoteness of many Australian mining operations, securing Lowest Cost of Electricity (LCOE) generation while not compromising power system reliability is a major challenge. GEMS’ ability to integrate weather forecasts and match available generation to changing load requirements with the help of predictive analytics enables GEMS to orchestrate an energy mix that prioritises the use of renewable generation while using energy storage to improve power quality and reliability. It also reduces spinning reserve requirements,” he says. 

“While renewable contributions of 20% or 30% to large mining loads would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, GEMS is now able to secure reliable operations with an average renewable energy contribution upwards of 50%. In some island grids, we have even accomplished several days of 100% renewable generation during periods of high availability,” Hellmich says.

Reliable energy generation and integration

GEMS has a 100% safety record, with more than 70 systems deployed around the world, from the Caribbean Islands to California to the Azores Islands in the North Atlantic. The system is smart – taking into account both real-time and forecasted data – and technology neutral, having already been integrated with a wide variety of battery and power-conversion system technologies. The GEMS platform supports intelligent energy applications that deliver a true “renewables as base load” solution, reinforced by the existing grid infrastructure. This increases resilience and efficiency, enabling customers to tap into the full potential of renewable energy resources.

Hellmich says that Wärtsilä is well positioned to help overcome Australia’s grid integration challenges for standalone energy storage or co-located solar, wind and energy storage assets. “Our integration experience with different forms of generation assets, including renewable and thermal, along with our ability to provide complex control and use case optimisations, gives us a competitive advantage,” says Hellmich.

Wärtsilä is working on projects that are planning the integration of approximately 500 MW of co-located utility-scale wind, solar, and storage systems that will provide 24/7 reliable renewable power to offtakers, enabled, controlled and dispatched by GEMS. 

Charmoille says this is key to reaching the goal of a 100% renewable energy future.

“The vision of a 100% renewable energy future can only be achieved through a balanced,  diversified mix of energy storage and renewable generation - from hydro and battery storage to wind and solar—and with the correct dispatch of this intermittent generation. GEMS can manage and control all these assets, creating a real opportunity to achieve a 100% renewable target,” Charmoille says.

GEMS Product Suite Facts

GEMS comprises five main products that together provide a level of control designed to optimise energy generation operations and maximise profitability:

  • GEMS Site Simulator enables Wärtsilä to test algorithms and equipment compatibility for rapid troubleshooting support
  • GEMS Power Plant Controller focuses on real-time device communication and control, and on-site monitoring
  • GEMS Fleet Director collects and stores equipment data, aggregating it for multiple power plants, forecasting and machine learning
  • GEMS Grid Controller performs intelligent plant dispatch optimisation in islanded grids as well as grid control functionalities 
  • GEMS Analyzer conducts equipment modelling and algorithm simulation to recommend the best equipment to maximise Return on Investment (ROI)

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