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University of Queensland monetises BESS with FCAS

UQ boosts 100% renewables business case with VPP participation

The University of Queensland (UQ) recently installed the state’s largest behind-the-meter battery, a 1.1MW / 2.15MWh Tesla Powerpack, to support its objective of becoming the world’s first university to offset 100% of its electricity needs with renewables in 2020. The $2.05 million asset is currently on track to pay for itself within eight years.

By enrolling the battery in clever energy management initiatives, the university has secured a range of new revenue streams, saving $74,000 in its first quarter. It earned $46,000 from participating in Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) with Enel X, $8,500 from arbitrage and $19,500 from its virtual CAP program (Q1 performance of UQ’s 1.1MW Tesla battery Report). 

What FCAS participation looks like for UQ

By joining Enel X’s Virtual Power Plant (VPP), UQ’s battery joins a collection of distributed energy resources including generators and equipment that provide critical grid services through demand response and flexibility programs.

Enel X pays UQ for being on standby to provide instant, dispatchable capacity to the grid when large power stations or transmission lines suddenly fail. This helps to keep the grid’s frequency in balance and reduces the threat of cascading power failures.

UQ Energy and Sustainability Manager Andrew Wilson, said, “The high number of FCAS events in Q1 correlated to unprecedented network conditions across the NEM, with the summer bushfires and other extreme weather events. With Enel X, we were able to provide instant capacity to support the grid’s frequency throughout this challenging period.”

“One of the key characteristics typical of batteries versus other forms of energy storage is their incredibly fast response times. During commissioning tests, our battery has responded from zero to full discharge at as fast as 200 milliseconds. It can swap from full charge to full discharge in around 400 milliseconds.”

“This makes it an ideal technology for participation in the NEM’s various FCAS markets. Our capacity is available to respond in less than one second to a drop in system frequency below the threshold of 49.85 Hz, until frequency is restored to the normal operating range,” Wilson said. 

FCAS performance in action

One performance example in UQ’s report shows an event that occurred on Friday 6 March in the afternoon, when Unit 4 of the Loy Yang A brown coal power station in Victoria unexpectedly tripped offline, resulting in the sudden loss of 558 MW of generation and causing the mainland NEM frequency to dip as low as 49.75 Hz – well below the contingency FCAS trigger point of 49.85 Hz.

Enel X’s onsite meter sensed this frequency deviation and immediately signalled to the battery to switch from charging at a rate of 919 kW to discharging at a sustained rate of 1,099 kW - providing the equivalent of 2.02 MW of ‘instantaneous reserve generation’ into the network to help arrest the fall in frequency. This event lasted five minutes, in which the battery resumed normal operation after frequency was restored to within its safe operating range.

“We are pleased with the Q1 results, which builds on our relationship with Enel X that dates back to February 2018. Our 600 kW pilot lithium ion battery at the Gatton campus was the first behind-the-meter battery in Australia to participate in the FCAS market, joining the grid only two months after the Hornsdale Power Reserve commenced operation,” Wilson said.

FCAS with Enel X

Three years ago, nearly all of FCAS came from traditional fossil fuel power stations.  Following a 2017 rule change that opened the market to other players, Enel X was the first new entrant to register a VPP in the FCAS market.

Enel X’s VPP is the biggest in Australia (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2019).  It's built from a network of distributed energy resources across nearly 100 commercial and industrial sites around Australia that respond in real-time when needed by the power grid. We have unmatched market access to a number of flexibility programs, and by enrolling our customers in multiple programs, they can maximise their revenue earned.

VPPs are becoming an increasingly important resource to the electricity grid and market operators.  The Australian Energy Market Operator has stated, “Energy markets must be redesigned to allow for the greatest amount of participation by both demand and supply resources as soon as possible, and begin to pay more accurately for the firming capability and other services we need to keep the system intact.”

VPPs utilise existing assets so they are built quickly, and with a low capital investment per MW of capacity. As Australia accelerates its transition to renewable power, large-scale VPPs are critical to achieving a cost-effective renewable future.  

Access UQ’s “The business case for behind-the-meter energy storage” report here.  



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