Solar-plus-storage pilot project in Australia to be funded by German government ministry



An antenna tower in Australia serving a broadcaster will be the site of a solar-plus-storage project funded by the German government and designed to deliver power 24 hours a day.

Photon Energy, originally founded in the Czech Republic but now headquartered in Holland, was selected for the project by the German Energy Agency (DENA). Funding for the project came from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs. The company will design, install and operate a 39kWp PV plant coupled with a 215kWh battery system on a broadcasting tower owned by Broadcast Australia (BAI) in Muswellbrook, New South Wales. The system will charge from the PV plant during the day and the battery system is combined with an 8KVa diesel backup generator to provide round-the-clock energy.

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The new installation will replace the tower’s existing power supply system. Relatively small in size, it will utilise 96 solar panels, 24 batteries made by lead acid battery company BAE Batterien and supplied by Australian distributor R&J Batteries. It will also use three inverters made by SMA and a monitoring system. With the project carried out under the remit the DENA Renewable Energy Solutions Programme’s  initiative “renewables – Made in Germany”, most of the components of the system are sourced from German companies.

According to Photon Energy the project will “pioneer the use of renewable energy for communications infrastructure in remote locations” and could provide the basis for “thousands” of similar sites across Australia if successful.

Although Australia has been seen as holding great potential for increased solar deployment, support at government level has wavered since the election of the current prime minister Tony Abbott, earlier this year. At present, new solar capacity installation in the country appears to be dominated by small and mid-sized projects, such as commercial rooftops and distributed applications including diesel generation replacement for the country’s vast mining industry, telecommunications and other data infrastructure.

Photon Energy, which provides services in a number of solar industry segments including project development and operations and maintentance (O&M), has greatly increased its involvement in the Australian market in recent months, having announced that it will gradually move away from focusing on the European market. The company was badly affected by retroactive cuts to support schemes for solar in the Czech Republic and other European markets, with chief executive officer Georg Hotar describing that period as a “corporate near death experience” in an interview with PV Tech’s sister publication Solar Business Focus.

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