Feeding extra solar PV into the Alice Springs grid

Wednesday, 11 March, 2015

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has revealed that up to 10 MW of extra solar photovoltaic (PV) could be installed in the Alice Springs grid without adversely affecting supply stability.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht stated, “One of the challenges involved in increasing grid-connected solar power in Australia is how to best manage the local weather impacts, such as cloud cover.” With this in mind, ARENA provided over $200,000 towards a study which “investigated the impact of large amounts of solar PV on electricity grids and how to effectively manage it”, he said.

Northern Territory engineering consultancy CAT Projects “used a network of solar monitoring stations to estimate the maximum number of solar power generators that can be connected to the Alice Springs electricity grid without energy storage”, Frischknecht explained. The study found that dispersing solar PV across geographical locations can effectively counteract its variability within a network.

“The study shows that building a larger number of smaller installations and spreading them out, ideally 3-5 km apart in Alice Springs, can reduce the impact of local cloud cover and smooth overall solar energy output,” Frischknecht said. The additional PV would make a sizeable difference to the Alice Springs grid, which currently has 4.1 MW of solar and a peak load of almost 55 MW in summer.

“This analysis is very relevant to solar projects currently being planned in the NT and elsewhere in Australia, and could allow network planners to increase the amount of solar PV that can be connected to the network,” Frischknecht said.

“The findings should also allow performance-based power purchase agreements to be more accurately formulated, potentially lowering the cost of renewable energy generation.”

The study is now publicly available on the ARENA website.

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