Australian Renewable Energy Agency-backed (ARENA) solar power and cloud prediction technologies are being combined to provide cheaper and more reliable renewable energy supply.

ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, announced SunEdison Australia had completed the $7.3 million 1 MW Karratha Airport Solar Farm, with $2.3 million in support from ARENA.

The City of Karratha has entered into a 21-year agreement to buy power from the solar plant and is expected to benefit from lower electricity costs over this period.

A separate ARENA project, Fulcrum3D’s CloudCAM solution, is operating at the site – tracking clouds and optimising the amount of solar power produced at the airport.

Mr Frischknecht said the two projects demonstrated how ARENA was backing new technologies that show the benefits of renewable energy, especially in regional communities.

“Cloud prediction makes solar cheaper and more reliable while reducing the need for batteries. That’s what makes this project so exciting,” said Mr Frischknecht.

“The technology is in its infancy. This is one of the first commercial trials in Australia and will be crucial for proving the technology’s feasibility.”

CloudCAM is being used at the site to accurately forecast solar power output. It employs ground mounted cameras to track and predict cloud movements and shadows.

“Combined with innovative control systems developed by MPower, the technology makes solar cheaper and reduces intermittency by giving the operators a clearer picture of the solar resource they can expect in the immediate future,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“As large-scale solar ramps up in Australia, spurred on by ARENA support, there will be more opportunities for cloud prediction technology to work alongside solar farms and ultimately accelerate the deployment of solar across Australia.

“Insights from the operation of Karratha Airport Solar Farm will be made publically available and will focus on the performance of the cloud predictive technology.”

CloudCAM was developed through a separate $1.1 million project supported by $545,000 of ARENA funding.

Mr Frischknecht said the Karratha Airport Solar Plant would also create a case for more renewables to be connected to the North West Interconnected System (NWIS).

“The NWIS is a smaller network that requires renewable energy to meet performance criteria that are geared towards maintaining network stability,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“ARENA-supported projects like the Karratha Airport Solar Farm and CloudCAM are important for demonstrating to network owner and operator Horizon Power that solar can provide sustainable, reliable power into the NWIS without the need for large amounts of expensive battery storage.”

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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