Up to 10MW of additional solar photovoltaic (PV) could be installed in the Alice Springs grid without adversely affecting supply stability.
Research has suggested the extra PV would make a sizeable difference to the grid, which currently has 41MW of solar and a peak load of almost 55MW in summer.
The study was conducted by Northern Territory engineering company CAT Projects, and investigated the impact of large amounts of solar PV on electricity grids and how to effectively manage it.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) provided more than $240,000 towards the study, which CEO Ivor Frischknecht said came with its own obstacles.
“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. 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,” he said.
The study found dispersing solar PV across geographical locations can effectively counteract its variability within a network.
“Building a larger number of smaller installations and spreading them out, ideally 3-5km apart in Alice Springs, can reduce the impact of local cloud cover and smooth overall solar energy output,” Mr Frischknecht said.
The analysis is 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.
The findings should also allow performance-based Power Purchase Agreements to be more accurately formulated, potentially lowering the cost of renewable energy generation.
“Studies like this have a vital role to play in helping increase confidence in renewable energy, overcoming barriers and encouraging more renewables into electricity grids,” Mr Frischknecht said.
The study is now publicly available in line with ARENA’s commitment to advance competitive renewable energy technologies and solutions through knowledge sharing.