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'Solar safe' - Design of a containerised power system for remote applications

Wearne, Thomas (2014) 'Solar safe' - Design of a containerised power system for remote applications. Internship Report, Murdoch University.

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When selecting a power system, the leading factors are typically cost and performance, although there can be other factors which may be location/application specific such as energy security/reliability and system complexity, flexibility, safety or control.

Aboriginal family outstations located in the Thamarrurr area of Wadeye, Northern Territory (NT), are currently powered by single diesel generators. The mechanical wear and fuel efficiency consequences, which come from using a single generator on a widely varying electrical load, add cost to the already high fuel expenditure. Along with the fuel being noticeably more expensive than metropolitan prices, heavy rain events during the wet season reportedly sometimes make fuel delivery by road unviable which can result in lengthy power outages. For situations such as these, it can be economical to utilise additional generators or a battery bank, to allow the generator(s) to operate closer to their rated output, where fuel is utilised more efficiently and mechanical wear is more gradual. Another option is to add alternative generation to the system such as a photovoltaic array to reduce generator use and dependence, fuel consumption and subsequently annual expenditure.

This thesis details the design of a fenced photovoltaic array and a containerised power system with batteries and diesel generation for the Yedderr Outstation near Wadeye, NT. Performance modelling and analysis has shown that the proposed system would be cleaner, more reliable and cheaper over the twenty five year life of the project when compared to the current diesel-­‐only system. It is expected that the capital cost of this system would be recovered within six to eight years of operation without grants or subsidies. This makes the deployment of the system justifiable on economics alone, without considering other advantages such as supply expansion, reliability and a reduction of CO2 emissions. By offering a containerised solution with online connectivity, the system can be managed remotely by the system integrator, which dissociates the customer from the added complexity of a hybrid system.

The Yedderr Outstation has been selected for the initial design in part because it was visited by representatives of Solari Energy Pty Ltd at the invitation of the Victoria Daly Regional Council who govern the area. This thesis and embedded research has been undertaken with and for Solari Energy Pty Ltd. It is expected that the design for Yederr would require only minor modifications to become suitable for other Outstations. For Yederr, the optimal design was found to be a 22.68 kWp PV array and a 219 kWh battery bank. The system is backed up by a 16 kW diesel generator which is expected to operate fewer than 100 hours each year.

Research identified that diesel fuel prices in Australia are escalating faster than inflation, while the costs of photovoltaic modules and batteries are declining rapidly as a result of global research and development. Given these and other factors, it is expected that the business case for deploying power systems like the one proposed in this thesis, can only improve with time.

Item Type: Internship Report (Bachelor of Engineering)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
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