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.
As part of this initiative, Collinsville Solar Limited, a subsidiary of Transfield Consortium technology provider Novatec Solar, has been shortlisted to develop a 150MW solar thermal power station near Collinsville in Queensland.
An important component of this application was a feasibility and design study which included the accurate collection of on-site solar irradiation data. Collinsville Solar commissioned Pacific Data Systems to design and commission a solar tracking and weather station to facilitate this data collection.
By incorporating an active solar tracker and pyrheliometer for monitoring direct solar irradiance, Pacific Data Systems is able to constantly track the sun’s position. When cloud cover prevents monitoring of the sun’s azimuth and elevation, Pacific Data Systems' solution is also able to revert to passive tracking to ensure only a small degree of drift occurs. When the cloud clears, the solution reverts automatically back to active tracking.
Pacific Data Systems incorporated a dataTaker data logger and 3G communications into the design of the solar tracking 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 Vaisala WXT520 weather sensor.
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.
This solar tracking and weather station runs autonomously, however at times when technical maintenance is required the design and documentation of the system allows local technicians to keep the system in good working order.