Solar tracking & weather station assists solar flagship project

Supplier: Pacific Data Systems Australia
12 August, 2011

Pacific Data Systems has provided a solar tracking and weather station to assist in Transfield Services' bid to develop a solar thermal plant at Collinsville.

The Background

In 2009 the Australian Federal Government announced the $1.5 billion Solar Flagship Program, an initiative designed to accelerate the delivery of large-scale, grid-connected solar power to the National Electricity Market.

Collinsville Solar Limited, a subsidiary of Novatec Solar, the technology provider in the Transfield Consortium, is shortlisted to develop a 150MW solar thermal power station near Collinsville in Queensland.

An important component of the full application was a feasibility and design study which included the accurate collection of on-site solar irradiation data.

The Solution

The requirements called for a remote and self powered ground station that would routinely monitor and log solar and weather data measured at the site. In conjunction with Collinsville Solar’s project consultant, Pacific Data Systems designed an innovative solar tracking station.

Phase One - Design

By incorporating an active solar tracker and pyrheliometer for monitoring direct solar irradiance, the solution
constantly tracks the sun’s position. When cloud cover prevents monitoring of the sun’s azimuth and elevation, the
solution is able to revert to passive tracking to ensure only a small degree of drift occurs. When the cloud clears, the solution reverts automatically to active tracking.

A data logging solution with remote communications was incorporated into the design of the solution to enable recording of the solar radiation data as well as the air temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and precipitation data gained through an additional weather sensor.

Phase Two - Integration

Once the design phase of the project was complete, the Engineering Team at Pacific Data Systems commenced pre-installation integration works.

As part of this process, programming of the dataTaker data logger was carried out to ensure Collinsville Solar would be able to easily download and interpret the results.

Phase Three - Commissioning

In late August 2010, Paul Gapes from Pacific Data Systems, travelled to the Collinsville site to assist with the commissioning of the station.

Over the course of two days, Paul assisted a team of engineers to install the various components, ensuring that there was a seamless handover to Collinsville Solar.

The Result

Subsequent to commissioning, the ground station was put into immediate operation for measuring weather and solar radiation data and has been running since that time.

The system runs autonomously yet will obviously be affected by environmental conditions like heat, dust, rain and strong winds and lack of sunlight during protracted cloudy conditions. At the times when technical maintenance is required, the good design and documentation of the system has allowed local technicians at the site to keep the system in good working order.

An important part of the integration process was the training of key client technologists for proper use of the system.