Doomadgee To Demonstrate Hybrid Solar-Diesel Minigrid In Remote Australia

The technical viability and system reliability of a high penetration solar-diesel hybrid system will be demonstrated in northwest Queensland.
Published: Fri 19 Sep 2014

Ergon Energy is undertaking a demonstration of a hybrid electricity system involving a large amount of solar photovoltaic energy with diesel generation.

The project will integrate 1.26MW of solar PV generation into the existing diesel power station that powers the Doomadgee Aboriginal community in remote northwest Queensland. The aim is to help advance Ergon Energy’s technical capability to roll out high penetration PV/diesel hybrid systems into other isolated communities.

Introducing solar PV system

The isolated communities in the remote areas of Queensland depend predominantly on power from diesel generation. Ergon Energy has introduced a limited amount of renewable energy such as solar into these locations. However, there are technical barriers preventing the installation of large amounts of renewables into these isolated grids. Finding solutions to these technical barriers will help make it possible to displace diesel fuel systems with high penetration renewable energy as it becomes cost-competitive.

Ergon Energy initially installed a 264kW solar farm to offset approximately 8% of the diesel generation used by the Doomadgee community. This helped reduce energy costs as well as alleviate the amount of fuel needed to be stored in case of extended wet seasons when access to the community can be cut for up to half the year.

This new project increases the amount of solar PV being fed into the minigrid to 1.26MW, in order to demonstrate the technical viability and system reliability of a high penetration solar PV/diesel hybrid system. Supporting technologies such as an advanced control system, low-load diesel, stability control and diesel-off capability will also be integrated.

High penetration off-grid solar benefits

Ergon Energy will share knowledge and experience in the development and operation of the system, including the logistical challenges. The project is also expected to help drive down cost, making high penetration renewable solutions cost-competitive with diesel.

The A$11.9 million (US$11.1 million) project is being supported with A$4.6 million (US$4.3 million) from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

“This ambitious project in the Gulf of Carpentaria will drastically reduce the Doomadgee community’s reliance on expensive diesel fuel and secure its future power production with renewable, reliable solar,” comments ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. “Ergon Energy will achieve up to 100% solar penetration, displacing an expected 528,000 litres of diesel per year.”

The project, the first project to be funded through ARENA’s Community and Regional Renewable Energy program to help regional energy distributors feed more renewable energy into off-grid communities, is due to be completed by September 2017.

Australia is expected to become of the major markets for remote microgrids in the Asia-Pacific region with the need to supply remote communities and mining sites. [Engerati-Investment in Microgrids In Asia-Pacific To Near US$31 Billion By 2023]