Murdoch University researchers are helping to shape the future of solar power in regional Western Australia.
In a collaboration with a group of Carnarvon residents and energy provider Horizon Power, the researchers are investigating whether small energy networks powered by increasing numbers of photovoltaic systems backed by batteries can be an economical and reliable way of delivering clean energy to the town.
More than 80 Horizon Power customers are taking part in the Carnarvon Distributed Energy Resources (DER) trials which began in 2017. DER could represent the future of energy generation in remote and regional areas as Australia moves away from centralised fossil fuelled generation.
The trials will give the partners a deep understanding of the impact of variable weather on solar photovoltaic electricity generation, and how the variability affects the network.
Participants’ systems have been fitted with monitor and control technology and gather solar and battery performance data. This information, along with weather data, power station performance and network operation data will be analysed by a team of Murdoch researchers led by Dr Martina Calais from the Engineering and Energy discipline.
Dr Calais said the town of Carnarvon had a history of embracing innovation and Horizon Power wanted to find a way for more residents to take on renewable energy generation.
“The trials and experiments being conducted across this three year project will help us to understand how best to ensure a stable power supply for Carnarvon from renewables,” Dr Calais said.
“We will be looking at how various ‘critical scenarios’, such as rapid solar PV generation reduction due to cloud movement across the town or inverter tripping, will impact the system, and come up with recommendations on how DER systems could continue to provide a reliable supply.
“We want to help Horizon Power overcome barriers to connecting increasing amounts of renewable energy to the network and allow their customers to be part of the solution that will eventually bring benefits for all of regional WA.”
Other Murdoch researchers involved in the project include Professor Parisa Bahri, Dr Ali Arefi, Dr GM Shafiullah, Dr Farhad Shahnia, Simon Glenister, Dr Moayed Moghbel and Adjunct Professor Craig Carter.
The Carnarvon DER trials are primarily funded by Horizon Power with a $1.92 million contribution from the Federal Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).