Changing shape of solar power: How tracking technology killed the solar bell curve

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Carnegie Clean Energy illustrates the benefits of using single axis tracking in large-scale solar projects.

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Carnegie Clean Energy’s 10MW Northam Solar Farm has been tracking well, pardon the pun, since the Western Australian solar PV project started sending energy to the grid in November last year.

Carnegie said in a statement recently that the solar farm, which just over a week ago received Approval to Operate from Western Power, had been “performing well,” thanks to the technology allowing the PV panels to track the movement of the sun.

What caught our eye was this graph above that they included showing the output from two days in mid-January – which punctures the myth that solar can only deliver a “bell curve” that has only a brief peak in output.

Instead, it shows that peak output is solid for more than eight or nine hours of the day in summer, as we have seen in recent installations such as Colleambally in NSW.

“The additional generation gained due to the single axis tracking system selected for the project has been evident with the system’s output quickly ramping up in the morning,” Carnegie said in a statement.

This is important to note. Nearly every new solar farm in Australia features tracking technology of some sort, leaving the “bell curve” to be a feature only of rooftop solar systems.

At the same time, Carnegie also announced the “practical completion” of a hybrid solar and battery storage microgrid that its subsidiary, Energy Made Clean, had been building at the Delamere Air Weapons Range in the Northern Territory.

“This innovative solar, battery and diesel off-grid microgrid system is now supplying high penetration solar power to approximately 200kVA peak load and is delivering reliable, 24/7 power resulting in diesel consumption savings,” Carnegie said.

The two pieces of positive news follow what was a tough year for Carnegie – including massive financial losses, the departure of former CEO Michael Ottaviano, and a failed attempt to sell Energy Made Clean.

“All the major EMC projects that were in train when I joined a year ago were over budget and behind schedule,” Carnegie chair Terry Stinson told shareholders of the solar and battery hybrid projects brought by EMC.

“Many of the projects are now close to completion and in my view, the situation is now stabilised, but stabilising the business, and keeping it alive, came at a significant cost to Carnegie,” he said.

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