Adapting to a changing energy landscape

In November 2020, Origin’s Darling Downs Power Station turned 10. Station Manager, Anthony Ham, shares how the plant’s adapting to the rapidly changing energy landscape.

Located in Kogan, about 40km from Dalby in Queensland’s Darling Downs region, the power station remains Queensland’s largest gas-fired power station and Australia’s largest combined cycle gas turbine power station – with a maximum generation capacity of 630 megawatts.

“The entire team live in the Western Downs region during the week and nearly a third of the workforce were with us when the station opened in 2010. Since then, we’ve seen many changes to the way the station operates,” he said.

“Darling Downs was originally designed to operate as a base-load generator, meaning the power station was running for long periods and had a low number of starts each year. That’s all changed with the increased deployment of renewable generation like solar and wind around the state. In response to the changing market, plants like Darling Downs need to come on quickly and more frequently when the wind drops off or the sun clouds over.”

“The fact we had over 2,200 starts for the last three years, compared to a total of 435 starts during the plant’s first eight years of operation illustrates how dramatic these changes in the market have been,” said Anthony.

“A couple of years ago we made some significant investments to ensure Darling Downs could operate in a more flexible way. These modifications have enabled us to better support renewable generation by responding rapidly to changes in the grid.”

Modifications have included the installation of new main stop control valves, which enable the plant to reduce minimum output and better support renewables; retuning the steam cycle (i.e. the temperature and pressures at which certain valves open) to decrease the steam turbine start up time and protect internal components from erosion that can occur with more frequent starts; and upgrading equipment in the station’s chemical control room to improve plant monitoring capability.

Origin continues to look for further opportunities to improve the flexibility of our generation fleet and recently completed commissioning of the second fast start unit at the Quarantine power station in South Australia.

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