Study: More Than 60% Of Electricity Demand Can Be Met By Solar PV in Alice Springs, Australia, Without Grid Instability

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More than 60% of electricity demand in the Australian town of Alice Springs can be met via solar photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity without causing grid instability, according to a new study that was partly funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The remote central Australian town currently has a solar PV capacity (utility scale) of 4.1 megawatts (MW) — helping to support a population of ~29,000. The conclusion of the new report is that 10 MW of new capacity can be safely added to the town’s grid with no issues — preferably spread across 9 different 1.1 MW arrays, in order to minimize the effects of variable cloud cover.

Australia Alice springs


If the report’s conclusion is followed through on, that will bring the town’s utility-scale solar PV share to ~25.5% of total generation capacity at peak load (55 MW, in summer).

The report made note of the fact that small grids — like those in remote towns similar to Alice Springs — are already exposed to significant levels of load variance as part of normal operations, regardless of intermittent solar. Owing to this, large amounts of solar PV can be added to the grid, with the accompanying variation on the grid ending up “being very similar to the step change ‘noise’ variance which currently occurs in the network.”

The report shows that by spreading out installed solar PV systems geographically, production can be made less affected by variable cloud cover — a bit obvious I suppose, but something worth noting. The advice gleaned from the study is that the proposed 1.1 MW solar arrays in Alice Springs should be spread 1.85 to 3.1 miles (3 to 5 kilometers) apart.

“The findings of this study are timely and show how more solar PV could be reliably introduced into Australian electricity networks,” stated Ivor Frischknecht, CEO of ARENA. “CAT Projects used a network of solar monitoring stations to estimate the maximum number of solar power generators that can be connected to the Alice Springs electricity grid without energy storage.”

The CAT Projects team that conducted the research noted that the findings are likely equally applicable to other small remote communities throughout Australia.

Image Credit: Alice Springs via Wiki CC

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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6 thoughts on “Study: More Than 60% Of Electricity Demand Can Be Met By Solar PV in Alice Springs, Australia, Without Grid Instability

  • I wonder how much of this applies to other remote and regional areas in Oz. Great news, a commercial reason for rural communities to join with the Transition Town movement and start putting up panels.

    • As stated in the article

      “The CAT Projects team that conducted the research noted that the findings are likely equally applicable to other small remote communities throughout Australia”

      • Ah yes, it does, but at the very end, and I seemed to have missed that. Alice Springs does have more sun that many other areas, so it was worth double checking.

        This would help cut down on the imported diesel, which would be a real money saver for most regional towns.

  • And how much when Australian consumers massively adopt household (Tesla) batteries?

  • Small world. We lived there for 3 years while being stationed to work at the American/Australian government base there (JDFPG – Joint Defense of Pine Gap). Yeah, I’m pretty certain that with a little battery backup the entire town could go solar. Shockingly there’s also a really great golf course called Lasseter’s hotel, casino and golf course – in the middle of the dessert. They have rivers with no water in them, and yet have some really nice golf greens 🙂

  • Well, somebody has to go first. 100% solar with storage would be a nice project for a little town with lots of sun. And it doesn’t need the involvement of the federal government…i.e. Tony Abbott. The first major city should be Phoenix Arizona. Blessed with fabulous solar resource and a moderate heating climate it is ideal for the first 100% solar city in the world.

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