The site

Western Queensland has very high solar radiation, with an annual average of seven to eight sunshine hours a day over nearly 200 clear days a year. The town of Windorah – with a population of approximately 100 residents – is an ideal size to host the trialling of this new technology.

The solar farm’s five mirrors are located next to the town’s diesel power station, which can be easily integrated with the technology used at the solar farm. While the solar farm is producing power, the diesel generator operates at reduced output. At night or when there is too much cloud cover for the solar dishes to generate power, the diesel generators are brought back to sufficient capacity to satisfy the town’s power needs.

The system also includes batteries to cope with brief periods of cloud cover without having to increase the diesel generator’s output.

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Technology

The mirrors reflect and concentrate sunlight 500 times onto a high-capacity solar photovoltaic (PV) cell in a central point at the front of the dish. Each cell generates approximately 26 kilowatts (kW) of electricity, depending on season, time of day and cloud cover. The PV cells are 35 per cent efficient.

Each dish comprises 112 mirrors, and each mirror measures 1,100 mm x 1,100 mm.

Starting at the exact location of sunrise in the morning, the dishes face and follow the sun. At the end of the day, they track back to the east in preparation for the following day’s operation.

The mirrors are aligned north-south and are separated to avoid shading each other in the early morning and late afternoon.

Different combinations of dishes are used at different times, with some dishes being parked and not used while others are generating power. The system is designed to integrate the solar farm’s output into the overall power distribution system.

Energy purchase and supply

The plant is expected to produce 360,000 kWh of electricity per year.

The solar farm is owned and operated by Ergon Energy and feeds into the isolated-system Windorah grid.

Environmental impact

The project is expected to reduce diesel consumption by approximately 30,000 to 100,000 litres per year.

Future outlook

Ergon Energy is undertaking continued research and development in order to maximise the integration of the power generated by the solar farm and that generated by the diesel power station.

Funding arrangements and acknowledgements

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program.