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Securing Australia's power future

12 December, 2011

A commercial wind power forecasting system called Wind Insight is set to provide greater security to Australia’s electricity power systems.

The University of New South Wales has successfully delivered its first free-of-charge intellectual property to an industry partner, reconnecting a former PhD student with his clean-energy creation.

This is the first Australian deal forged under the Easy Access IP framework, which was adopted by UNSW in November in a bid to turn more university-bred research into practical, real-world solutions.

"The deal went extremely well," Kevin Cullen, CEO of NewSouth Innovations, the commercialisation company of UNSW said.

"Easy Access did exactly what it was designed to do and that was to make the technology easily available."

Roam Consulting, a Brisbane-based firm that specialises in energy market modelling, has used UNSW research to develop Wind Insight, a commercial wind power forecasting software.

By extracting key information from numerical weather prediction systems, the program can alert power system operators in advance of potential rapid changes in wind power output. This allows operators to more effectively manage the grid and set up power reserves as needed, which will help maintain power system security.

Horizontally propagating wind features have been found to be a major cause of large rapid changes in wind power for Australian wind farms. These features are generally predicted well by numerical weather prediction systems, but can be displaced by 50-100 km relative to their eventual true position.

The Wind Insight  wind power field animations allow a forecast user to visualise the propagating wind features predicted in the region of single or multiple wind farms, assess likely scenarios in wind power production from displacing these features and make decisions accordingly.

Engineer Nicholas Cutler, who works at Roam Consulting, originally developed the technology as a PhD student with his supervisors at UNSW in the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications.

"My research aim was to develop a wind power forecasting technique to facilitate the uptake of wind power into the national electricity market," Cutler said.

The Australian Energy Market Operator funded a further year of research at UNSW to develop a prototype version of the program.

As the amount of installed wind power continues to grow, Cutler said Wind Insight could become an important tool for all electricity market participants, as rapid changes in wind power can impact electricity spot prices.

The simplified Easy Access IP framework has given Cutler access to the code he created while working at UNSW, and the opportunity to turn it into an operational tool that is ready for commercial deployment.

There are currently six technologies available under the Easy Access IP model, with more on the horizon as NewSouth Innovations continues to assess the University’s IP portfolio.

"We hope that by seeing how simple the process is it will spur more interest and demand," Cullen said.

"And that this will lead to more deals over the next year."

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