Thursday, 15 November 2012

Solar capability enhanced with battery ‘smoother’
3 Nov 2012

WESTERN Australian based company Magellan Power has developed a unique device to address electricity fluctuations that occur with some alternative energy technologies. Renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal are growing industries in Australia and research is focused on the pursuit of more efficient energy transmission. In particular, solar farms have an issue with power surges and lulls that occur due to changeable weather conditions.

"When the grid experiences large changes in the injection of solar power, for example on cloudy days, the generators work hard to keep up", Magellan Power's Jolleh Abshar says. "If a large cloud passes by, then the solar injection level will suddenly drop and generators will need to work hard to keep the power flowing".

This lack of reliability has caused WA electricity utility, Horizon Power to bring in new specifications, effective from July this year requiring solar farms to have 'smoothing devices'--a relatively new technology, installed. Chief Technical Officer for Magellan Power, Lindsay Meek says their Solar Smoother uses an integrated cell battery management system. "Our system consists of batteries and a bi-directional inverter and the lithium ensures that the batteries aren't compromised by the heavy work load", she says.

It uses similar battery technology to hybrid powered vehicles. A number of similar units called Grid Power Support Systems have already been sold to Ergon Energy in Queensland, to solve issues with their solar power and to smooth electricity flow in old single earth return (SWER) lines. The success of these first commercial placements has seen Magellan Power refining their product to the point where they now also offer smaller residential units (RUSS).

The Solar Smoother is a key solution for a 45KW solar project at the Carnarvon Police and Justice Complex, which is currently under tender. Plans are underway for another project for a local council in the Pilbara, where a Solar Smoother is again the preferred solution. Magellan believes it has the only Solar Smoother specifically designed to smooth solar power. The technology can be applied to both existing and prospective electricity supply sources in Australia and internationally.