An Australian-made advanced cloud tracking system that predicts cloud movements to help forecast the output of solar PV has entered the market, less than two years after the technology was backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The CloudCAM, developed by NSW company Fulcrum3D, uses ground mounted cameras to track cloud movements, and can even track clouds that are layered at different altitudes and moving at different speeds.
Fulcrum3D technical director Colin Bonner said the Sydney-based company had sold its first systems to local utility-scale solar customers, following a successful pilot project supported by $569,200 ARENA funding, and was working with operators of remote, hybrid PV power stations to integrate CloudCAM.
“Three new commercial solar sites across Australia have purchased CloudCAMs in the last month,” he said.
“Epuron sites at Ti-Tree and Kalkarindji in the Northern Territory are now the first high penetration PV power stations in Australia to use cloud forecasting to smooth solar power output.
Bonner said the successful integration of the technology at the Ti Tree site had led to a small increase in revenue from the power system and a significantly lower demand for energy from its storage system, reducing cycling of the batteries and increasing battery life.
“We have also begun trials on advanced sensors, with ARENA’s support, which aim to increase CloudCAM’s predictive capability in utility-scale solar power stations with large geographical footprints,” he said.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the sales were the latest example of ARENA’s grants scheme leading to real, commercial outcomes. (The Coalition government, however, has announced it will remove the grant-funding mechanism).
“Cloud tracking allows solar power output to be accurately forecasted before cloud shadows move across solar panels,” he said.
“This reduces the need for battery storage and informs market bidding, ultimately increasing solar energy yield, resulting in cheaper power.
“There is potential for this technology to be combined with the next wave of solar PV plants built in Australia, including those seeking funding through ARENA’s $100 million large-scale solar competitive funding round.”