A Network Impact Analysis (NIA) has been done to assess the network impact of the operation of the solar farm on Ergon’s grid and existing equipment. This analysis has taken into consideration the commissioning period and the first 6 months of full operation of the solar farm. BRCSF has been connected to the Ergon Grid since 13 December 2016 and demonstrating significant benefits in terms of losses reduction, voltage support at Lilyvale substation and lower network operational costs. Precisely, the main findings can be listed:
- End-of-grid solar can substantively reduce system losses during operation, reducing grid operational costs and subsequently Distribution and Marginal Loss Factors that are calculated into nodally adjusted energy consumption.
- Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm is an example of how solar farms can be established on remote grids at potentially greater levels than previously thought. This demonstrates new knowledge in the penetration of solar generation, which previous school of thought determined shouldn’t exceed 30% of load values.
- As network operators currently use reactors to perform voltage regulation in remote substations, it has been demonstrated, through BRCSF, that inverters in solar farms can deliver the same functionality, potentially removing the need for expensive network assets such as reactors to be built in regional substations where a solar farm is in operation. This could reduce network operation costs, defer or replace capital expenditure by the network operator, and therefore reduce Network Use Of System (NUOS) costs to electricity consumers.
- According to the data collected, there is a clear case that solar farms can provide network support services, with this being monetised in Network Support Agreements by either delaying or completely removing the need for certain network assets as well as the reduction of capital works programs planned for the network. This also provides an opportunity to minimise Opex costs in maintaining the system.
From this first 6-month analysis, it appears that there is no downstream negative effect from the solar farm’s operation on losses, while upstream benefits are maintained once load exceeds generation in the network.