Human settlements

Renewable energy

Wind 01: Advanced high-penetration wind-diesel power system

Renewable Energy Commercialisation in Australia, Australian Greenhouse Office, 2003
NOTE: The status of these projects will have changed since the time of publication, and project contacts may also have changed.

Western Power and Powercorp have introduced a unique system that uses a low load diesel system to increase the supply of electricity from wind energy.

Three striking 50 metre wind turbines on a rise above the town of Denham, about 850 kilometres north of Perth on Western Australia's central coast, testify to the future of wind power.

Western Power and Powercorp, aided by a $1 million Renewable Energy Showcase grant, are developing an innovative system that will supply nearly half the town's electricity from wind energy. This is a remarkable breakthrough, with worldwide potential.

Denham is an isolated community of about 800 people, with the next major town some 350 kilometres away. Western Power selected Denham as the site for Australia's first large variable speed wind turbine because its isolation meant that it relied on diesel fuel for its electricity, incurring high generation costs and a reliance on fossil fuel that produces greenhouse gas. The fact that the area has strong, consistent winds made it the perfect choice for wind energy, a clean and sustainable local energy resource in an environmentally significant area. Denham attracts a steady stream of tourists, being the main centre for the unique attractions of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, including the playful dolphins at Monkey Mia.

Commencing the project in 1998, Western Power contracted Powercorp to erect an Enercon E-30 wind turbine. The wind turbine subsequently supplied 20 per cent of the town's electricity requirements, saving around 150,000 litres of diesel each year.

The success of this project led Western Power to work towards displacing more diesel generation with increased wind generation. This was very challenging as wind-diesel systems typically accommodate only about 10 to 20 per cent of wind capacity. Moreover, managing fluctuations in the wind has always been the greatest obstacle to providing a dependable electricity supply from wind energy. Wind turbine output can be highly variable, so enough diesel generators must always be running to supply the town's demand if the wind subsides.

To overcome these problems, two more Enercon E-30 wind turbines were installed in late 1999 to form the Denham wind farm. To make the best use of the expanded wind farm, one low load diesel system incorporating a boiler grid interface system and a unique advanced computer control system, is being developed by Powercorp in cooperation with Western Power engineers for operation at the power station.

The Australian-designed intelligent computer control system will use the low load diesel system to help smooth out the variable output of the wind farm. The low load diesel system will provide the necessary system spinning reserve coverage of the wind farm and will absorb excess power from the grid when necessary using the boiler grid interface system.

The greater security and quality of supply from the wind farm and low load diesel system combination will mean that fewer Three striking 50 metre wind turbines on a rise above the town of Denham, about 850 kilometres north of Perth on conventional diesel generators need to be operating to meet the town's electricity demand, so reducing its diesel fuel consumption.

The potential of this technology is exciting. The operation of the Denham wind-diesel system will be closely monitored to evaluate the technical and commercial benefits of this innovative approach of using a low load diesel system to integrate more wind turbines into diesel-fuelled power systems. This unique system has strong commercial potential for remote, windy locations in other parts of Australia and the world.

Researching and testing renewable and alternative energy is valuable, but it is the commercial development of these applications that is important. Western Power and Powercorp are proving, through Australian ingenuity and determination, that a strong local renewable energy industry can develop.

For more information please contact

Adrian Chegwidden
Manager, Sustainable Energy Branch
Western Power Corporation
GPO Box L921
Perth WA 6842
Tel (08) 9326 4902
Fax (08) 9326 4600

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