A solar monitoring station

Alice Springs could add up to 10 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels onto roofs without affecting supply stability, new research from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has found.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said additional solar PV could help to manage Alice Springs’ large peak loads during hot summers, where demand can reach up to 55MW. Currently there is only 4.1MW of solar PV installed.

“The findings of this study are timely and show how more solar PV could be reliably introduced into Australian electricity networks,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“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.”

ARENA provided close to $250,000 for NT-based engineering company CAT Projects to investigate the impact of large amounts of solar PV on electricity grids and how to manage it.

“CAT Projects used a network of solar monitoring stations to estimate the maximum number of solar power generators that can be connected to the Alice Springs electricity grid without energy storage,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The study shows that building a larger number of smaller installations and spreading them out, ideally 3-5 kilometers apart in Alice Springs, can reduce the impact of local cloud cover and smooth overall solar energy output.”

He said the analysis could lead to network planners increasing the amount of solar PV able to be connected to the grid.

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