Renewable energy isn’t always the most reliable energy. Because solar and wind
are produced intermittently, megawatt-level power grids have been able to use
them only as a supplementary energy source. The King Island Renewable Energy
Integration Project in Tasmania, Australia set out to change that.
“We’re trying to disprove the myth that renewables are unreliable. If you
couple renewable energies with enabling technologies, what you get is a more
reliable power system than when you relied on thermal units only,” says Simon
Gamble, project director, Hydro Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.
High fossil fuel prices led the utility to pursue the four-year AU$18.25 million
project, Mr. Gamble says.
“The business case is quite clear, and it’s driven by economics. It’s driven by
the cost of energy,” he says. “Diesel fuel and power generation in remote areas
are extremely expensive. Renewables now offer a cost-effective alternative to
generating power in remote communities.”
To get there, the team needed to understand how customers used the power
supply and how energy flowed through the grid. That meant testing the system
in a live, customer-facing environment.
“Until you do it in that environment, you can’t guarantee that you have a
robust solution, something that will be reliable, maintainable, that will be appli-
cable more widely in the marketplace.”
As the owner of the grid, Hydro Tasmania had control over the type of energy
injected into the centralized grid—diesel or renewable power. To increase
the contribution of renewables, control of some customer demand was also
required, to better match this with the available renewable generation. The proj-
ect team had to install smart meters in homes and businesses across the grid to
determine how efficiently that power was being delivered. To gain access to this
customer load data, Hydro Tasmania turned to the community for stakeholder
Mr. Gamble’s team used community events and incentive programs to make
people aware of the project and inspire them to get involved. The company
offered a one-time AU$100 payment and a AU$50 donation to a chosen charity for each volunteer who allowed the team to install a smart meter in his or
The public got on board: “We had close to double the volunteers than we
could physically incorporate in the project,” he says.
The team then turned to contingency management.
Taking the Lead
An Australian project proved that renewable energies can
play more than a supporting role.
“We’re trying to
disprove the myth
If you couple
you get is a more
system than when
you relied on
thermal units only.”
—Simon Gamble, Hydro Tasmania,