Flexibility the key to the future of coal

26 June 2019

At Stanwell, we are always looking at innovative ways to improve the capabilities of our coal-fired power stations to meet consumers’ needs for electricity, both now and into the future.

As demand for energy and the level of renewable generation changes, our plan is to increase our flexibility to be there when the market needs us so that Queenslanders continue to enjoy a reliable electricity supply.

Flexing our generation to meet changes in electricity demand is not a new concept to us.

In the past, this has meant looking at innovative ways to provide additional generation capacity to meet peak electricity demand and to help with system security.

Over the past two years, we have been looking at how the role of our coal-fired power stations needs to change to support an increasing level of renewable generation.

Originally designed to run at a relatively constant high level of output, we have trialled running our power stations at low load and then ramping up our generation to meet peak demand requirements.

As more solar energy comes online, there is less need for coal-fired generation in the middle of the day.

However, we need to be ready to respond when demand increases in the evening.

At our Stanwell and Tarong power stations, the initial focus has been on testing how low we can reliably run our power stations within the existing plant conditions.

Through these low load trials, we are taking a measured approach to challenge and push the boundaries of the original design concepts of our plant.

With each low load test, we are gaining more information and refining our processes. Our aim is to find the minimum load at which we can maintain safe and reliable generation under all operating conditions.

In addition to low load, we have been also trialling the impact of ‘two shifting’ where a generation unit is shut down during the middle of the day and then restarted and loaded up for the evening peak.

As part of these studies, we will look at the impact on efficiency and emissions as well as better understand the influences of flexible operations on plant life and maintenance requirements.

Our flexible plant trials are just one of the ways in which we are working to support a lower carbon future as more renewables come online.

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