PWC owns and operates over 50 mini-grids across the Northern Territory, providing power to remote Indigenous communities. These mini-grids predominantly rely on diesel fuel for power generation, which is associated with high operational costs, significant risk exposure to future price increases and greenhouse gas emissions. PWC recognises the opportunity provided by solar technologies to reduce its reliance on diesel fuel for remote power generation.
Integrating solar into diesel mini-grids is a niche application and involves different challenges to those associated with solar integration in large power systems. The key challenges associated with integrating solar into an existing diesel mini-grid relate to ensuring grid stability and quality of supply. This is largely due to the risk associated with the intermittent solar resource. A rapid change in solar output, beyond the diesel power station’s spinning reserve or the response capability of the control system, can jeopardise the stability of the overall power system and cause a power outage.
The question for utilities and project developers is how to maximise solar energy penetration in mini-grids to achieve highest possible diesel fuel savings, whilst maintaining efficient power system operation and a reliable electricity supply.
Media Release: New Resources Set to Boost Take up of Solar/Diesel Hybrid Energy in the Bush
ARENA and the Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation (PWC) today launched two exciting resources that will help boost the use of solar/diesel hybrid power generation in remote off-grid communities where energy demand and costs are increasing.
The key outcomes of the Daly River Solar Research Project are a Solar/Diesel Mini-Grid Handbook (the Handbook) and a mini-grid power system modelling tool (ASIM).
The Handbook has been developed to provide information about key technical, design, implementation and operational considerations for solar/diesel hybrid mini-grid systems in remote Australia, with a particular focus on the NT context. The Handbook is intended to inform the broader solar industry, academia and the general public about the remote community power supply context and the challenges associated with implementing solar into an existing diesel mini-grid to achieve fuel savings whilst maintaining a reliable, utility-grade electricity service.
ASIM is a flexible open-source modelling tool that has been developed to simulate solar/diesel power system operation and evaluate its technical and financial performance.
The Handbook and ASIM model tool will assist project developers to make informed solar/diesel hybrid system planning and design decisions for Australian installations. This will assist in reducing the reliance of Australia’s remote regional communities on diesel generated electricity, in turn reducing their vulnerability to rising carbon fuel costs and improving energy security.