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Cloud-Tracking Cameras to
Tackle Dips in Solar Power Output

by Michael Slezak
The Guardian, November 9, 2016

CloudCAM technology allows operators to reliably predict the output of solar farms 15 minutes ahead of time

A new way to tackle the much-maligned unpredictability of solar energy is being deployed at a solar farm opening today in Western Australia – cloud-tracking cameras.

The 1MW solar farm at Karratha airport, made possible by a $2.3m grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), has been fitted with state-of-the-art CloudCAM cloud-tracking technology by Fulcrum3D – a technology also backed by a separate $545,000 Arena grant.

Dips in power output from solar farms that occur when clouds pass over leads some solar farms to rely on backup energy storage to smooth out the output.

The unpredictability of those dips in output also makes it difficult for the operators to predict prices and can hinder their ability to bid in electricity markets.

According to the manufacturers, the cloud-tracking technology allows the solar operators to reliably predict the output of the solar farm 15 minutes ahead of time, meaning they can minimise the reliance on energy storage and can more effectively take part in market bidding.

The chief executive of Arena, Ivor Frischknecht, said that 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".

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

The marriage of two separate Arena-funded projects demonstrated the effectiveness of Arena grants and how they were benefiting regional communities, Frischknecht said.

Frischknecht said the Karratha airport solar plant would be a good example, demonstrating why more renewables should be connected to Western Australia's North West Interconnected System (NWIS).

The NWIS supplies electricity to Karratha, Port Headland and Goldsworth, as well as areas inland from there.

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

Michael Slezak
Cloud-Tracking Cameras to Tackle Dips in Solar Power Output
The Guardian, November 9, 2016

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