The theory that distributed renewables and electricity grids don’t mix has been challenged this week by the findings of a new Australian study, which illustrated that solar could provide more than one quarter of supply to a relatively small-sized grid without affecting stability.
The ARENA-backed study, which was conducted by Northern Territory engineering company CAT Projects, investigated the impact of adding up to 10MW of solar PV to the Alice Springs grid, which already has 4.1MW of solar installed and a peak load of almost 55MW in summer.
The aim, using a network of solar monitoring stations, was to estimate the maximum number of solar power generators that could be connected to the Alice grid without the need for energy storage.
The results, released by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency on Tuesday, showed that building a larger number of smaller solar installations and spacing them out at around three to five kilometers apart, counteracted variability and smoothed supply.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the findings of the study were timely, in their illustration of how more solar PV could be reliably introduced into Australian electricity networks.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“The findings should also allow performance-based Power Purchase Agreements to be more accurately formulated, potentially lowering the cost of renewable energy generation,” Frischknecht said.
“Studies like this have a vital role to play in helping to increase confidence in renewable energy, overcoming barriers and encouraging more renewables into electricity grids.”