Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Solar hybrid renewable energy project

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Amy Foxe, Lord Howe Island Board

The western array of solar panels was completed in late January, and cabled up to the battery and distribution board so that the full design capacity of solar generation is available. There has been an extensive testing and commissioning period during which some unplanned outages occurred. These outages appear to have occurred as a result of the Tesla Powerpack undergoing some commissioning checks and then hitting a fault when they were restored for full automatic use.

Fault-finding by the Photon and Tesla teams on the mainland and in Europe has been occurring with the issues to be diagnosed and rectified before the Board accepts completion of the project. We apologise for any inconvenience caused by the outages and the team have been working to avoid any repeat of the issue whilst we work out the root cause and the solutions for repair in parallel.

A significant event occurred on 5th March which is certainly worth mentioning and celebrating whilst the project team continue to work towards practical completion. A combination of slightly lower than average overnight demand and very clear morning skies provided the perfect conditions for the solar PV and solar-charged battery to take the island load for a full 24 hour period. The majority of the time the generators would be powered up to support the Island’s electricity needs from early morning through to the time when there is sufficient clear sky and solar penetration for the PV cells to take over. We all have a role to play in reducing our need for diesel in these early morning hours by practising energy efficiency in our purchase and running of appliances overnight, and by switching electrical devices off it they don’t need to run all night long. If we all do this, we could increase the likelihood of renewable energy powering the Island community for 24hr a day.

Between 9th and 13th March some acoustic monitoring stations were installed at the three locations around the Island that were also subject to monitoring many years ago at project inception. These stations and handheld measurements taken on the site would have detected any noise from the Tesla battery inverters and the solar inverters to ensure that the development complies with the acoustic emissions thresholds set in the conditions of consent. It is anticipated that there will be no detectable noise emissions from the site, and that the ambient noise of wind, waves and birds will exceed anything that can be detected from the solar generation site.

Once the teething issues are resolved and the Board accepts the overall completed solar project, an announcement will be made. Phase 2 of the project will then commence, which includes the construction of the composting toilet near the head of the Middle Beach Track, fence repairs to some of the pre-existing fences and the installation of interpretive signage around the site. These will take a little time to commence, so there will be little site activity in the short-to mid-term whilst project planning and procurement takes place.

The soil and gravel mounds are as a result of scraping the site, and are being stored behind the new Powerhouse shed. They will be used on site once plastics and contaminants are removed. The soil will be used as earth-forming for the composting toilet and cannot be removed from the site.

Removal of this material is in contravention of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The old wind monitoring mast has been felled, and once cut up for transport, will be disposed of appropriately.

Shortly the Building Certifier will attend site to issue the Occupation Certificate, and Photon will reach the Practical Completion milestone, which marks completion of construction and the start of the 12 month and 24 month monitoring and performance guarantee periods. The Board would like to acknowledge and thank the Photon and Solmech team who have spent the better part of the last year living with us on the Island to progress the project.

The Lord Howe Island Signal 31 March 2021

This article appeared in The Lord Howe Island Signal, 31 March 2021.

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