Solar to deliver microgrid power to remote WA

Solar to deliver microgrid power to remote WA
ABB microgrid technology supporting a solar photovoltaic diesel power station in remote WA

A microgrid solution is maximising the intake of solar power generation and minimising diesel fuel generation in remote locations in Western Australia such as Marble Bar and Nullagine – towns that are not connected to the grid and that would typically rely on diesel fuel.

Marble Bar is a town and rock formation in the Pilbara region, which is now home to only 200 people. Self-described as “Australia’s hottest town”, the arid climate and blistering summers have helped this small mining centre hold the world record for heat – 160 consecutive days at 37.8°C or above – for the past 90 years.

The burning sun has also made Marble Bar unique as the site of one of the world’s first utility-scale, high-penetration solar photovoltaic diesel power stations – with the other station in the adjoining gold-rush town of Nullagine, which holds a similar history and population.

ABB, through its Darwin-based team, worked closely with Horizon Power and SunPower Australia to install these new power stations, which are setting benchmarks – at an 85 per cent peak – for isolated hybrid diesel power systems with extremely high renewable energy generation and conversion.

Stable power output

The Marble Bar and Nullagine power stations each consist of four 320kW diesel generators and a 300kW solar array. They utilise some 2000 solar modules and a single axis solar tracking system, which follows the path of the sun throughout the day. The ground-mounted systems were the largest solar tracking systems commissioned in Australia at the time.

The hybrid solution includes a photovoltaic and a diesel generation plant as well as integration and control solutions. The microgrid is equipped with ABB’s PowerStoreTM kinetic flywheel grid stabilising technology which enables high solar energy penetration by injecting or absorbing power extremely fast in order to stabilise fluctuating power output from the solar power plant. ABB’s Microgrid Plus technology will help control the network.

Reduced dependence on fossil fuels

This hybrid microgrid power solution is now supplying both towns with close to 60 per cent of their power through solar generation, saving approximately 400,000 litres of diesel fuel and 1100 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

The ability to resolve intermittency issues caused by solar and wind generation in weak power systems enables renewable generation to be increasingly used as a primary power source in many remote communities with zero or limited access to diesel or other types of fossil fuels. About 80 similar ABB installations in a wide variety of applications around the world utilise this powerful green technology, showing freedom from fossil fuels is a real option now and in the future.