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Meekatharra virtual solar farm with centralised solar smoothing battery

Trinkl, Pierce (2016) Meekatharra virtual solar farm with centralised solar smoothing battery. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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As increasing amounts of renewable energy systems are being integrated into traditional power systems; a number of issues relating to the level of renewable energy penetration are arising. Horizon Power, an operator of islanded microgrids in Western Australia, is particularly susceptible to these problems as small microgrids can be destabilised by relatively low amounts of renewable energy generation compared with larger interconnected systems. This problem was brought to the forefront when a consortium of customers on Horizon Power’s Meekatharra microgrid applied to install solar generation that would collectively make up one third of Meekatharra’s maximum load.

This project is a feasibility study to determine the financial impact that connecting such a large amount of renewable energy generation to the network will have on both the customers and Horizon Power. It takes into consideration not only the impact of the solar generation being installed but also the accompanying solar smoothing battery required to allow such high renewable energy penetration. Furthermore, the possibility of a solar trading platform, to allow customers on the network to trade their excess energy, was explored and a financial model developed to assess the additional impact this would have on Horizon Power.

HOMER Energy was used to model the expected energy flows of each individual customer using real hourly load profiles supplied by Horizon Power. The requirements of the solar smoothing battery, and an accompanying cost estimate, were developed in conjunction with Horizon Power engineers using DIgSILENT’s PowerFactory. Financial modelling was completed in Excel based on these energy flows and battery pricing estimates. Finally, the likely value extracted from Horizon Power by a trading platform was estimated in Excel, again using the HOMER energy flows as a basis.

The outcomes of this study provided Horizon Power with a complete set of results to consider, when deciding whether to invest in the project. The key finding was currently the centralised solar smoothing battery is economically infeasible, leading to the decision not to invest in this project at this time and instead to wait until battery prices have declined. Once prices have reached the amount shown in the sensitivity analysis to make the project economically feasible, it will be reconsidered and the models developed through this project updated and re-simulated.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor(s): Friar, K., Calais, Martina and Carter, Craig
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