Modern defence technology depends on electricity, so it makes sense to power it with the most reliable generation system available. The Department of Defence is upgrading its bases in West Australia with photovoltaic systems, to benefit from the local abundance of sunshine. It is also important to note that the Department of Defence is the top energy consumer in the federal government, so there are significant savings to achieve while also contributing to environmental sustainability.
The Australian Department of Defence has large-scale plans for renewable energy, but the first two major projects are being deployed at the HMAS Stirling naval base and the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS). It is important to note that both installations are in West Australia, where the power network is isolated from the National Electricity Market (NEM), thus making self-generation even more valuable.
1.2 MW Solar Photovoltaic System for the ADSCS
One of the projects planned by the Australian Department of Defence is a 1.2-megawatt solar photovoltaic system for its Satellite Communications Station in Kojarena, Western Australia. Since the facility operates permanently, the full output of the solar power system will be consumed on-site, so there are no plans to deploy energy storage at the moment.
The ADSCS will continue to use the power network to meet all energy demand exceeding solar generation, especially its nighttime consumption. The project is expected to start operating before the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
2 MW Microgrid for the HMAS Stirling Naval Base
The project planned for the HMAS Stirling naval base is more complex, consisting of an independent microgrid that can synchronize with the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), but which is also capable of disconnection and stand-alone operation.
The microgrid will include a 2-MW solar photovoltaic system, combined with a battery bank that also has a rated output of 2 MW, and 0.5 MWh of storage capacity. The microgrid will also feature a wave power system, which is still an experimental technology, and a desalinization plant. In addition to the energy generation and storage system, the microgrid will also be equipped with smart controls, and the existing grid interconnection will be enhanced. The project budget is $7.5 million, where $2.5 million are being funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
The Reliability of Solar Power
Solar photovoltaic systems are an attractive electricity source for military facilities because they can operate without relying on an external resource. Conventional diesel and natural gas generation requires fuel deliveries, while power network electricity requires an interconnection. In the specific case of Australia, the military is a great starting point for the government to deploy solar power with energy storage, given that the Department of Defence is the top energy consumer and also owns large extensions of land.