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Solar power mapping needed, expert says

25th Oct 2012

Being able to forecast where the sun shines brightest for the longest period of time is becoming an increasingly important factor in Australia's energy markets.

Or so says Dr Peter Coppin, senior renewable energy researcher at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), who claimed solar mapping will benefit a number of businesses and agencies linked to the sector.

And CSIRO's interest in solar forecasting techniques isn't only academic - it is part of a consortium that is vying for funding to develop a new solar mapping system, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Money is being made available by the Australian Solar Institute (soon to be rolled into the larger Australian Renewable Energy Agency) to finance this research and Dr Coppin was keen to promote the benefits that can be delivered.

The Sydney Morning Herald's carbon economy editor Peter Hannam highlighted the advantages radiation records would have on businesses hoping to secure investment from banks and governments for large-scale solar projects.

However, Coppin said there is much more urgency in the solar rooftop PV market, with electricity being generated from more than 900,000 households across the country.

He stated: "It's essentially an unknown quantity what those cities full of roof-top PV are producing and we'd like to be able to forecast it."

According to the expert, CSIRO and co - with the consortium made up of organisations including the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the Bureau of Meteorology - will have a system ready by 2014.

"By two years' time, when we've got something in place, it will be just in time."

Dr Coppin argued that the rapid uptake of solar PV has caused power grids in some areas to become strained, with some network operators claiming hosting capacity has been reached.

Not only is this a problem because of ageing infrastructure that wasn't built for this purpose, it is a burden due to the sheer volume of solar power being produced, he said.

"If you've got a lot of intermittent generation on an electricity grid, you really have to know when it’s coming to officially schedule the rest of the generation," the specialist added.

His comments come as the Australian Clean Energy Regulator recently claimed that one million households would have solar PV by the middle of next year, while AEMO states that 3.4 per cent of the country's total electricity generation will come from solar power by 2021.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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