ABB supplies control system for world's first portable hybrid microgrid

ABB is providing a complete automation solution for the world's first portable solar-diesel/gas microgrid provider, SunSHIFTTM, a modular hybrid power system designed for quick installation that can also be easily dismantled and moved according to the changing needs of energy users in remote locations.

A pilot system, consisting of 141 kilowatt peak (kWp) of solar PV, was successfully deployed at a construction worker village in remote Queensland, Australia. Within one week of leaving the factory, 1,000km from the village, the system was unpacked and energized, augmenting four brownfield diesel generators and reducing diesel fuel consumption thereafter. After six months of operation, during which ABB’s cloud-based remote monitoring was used, the pilot system was packed up in less than 170 person-hours and successfully relocated.

Hybrid microgrid power systems benefit customers in off-grid areas by reducing their dependence on diesel/gas generators, which are expensive to maintain and operate on fuel that must be transported to the site and is subject to volatile pricing. By contrast, solar PV and wind generation are already cheaper than diesel/gas in some off-grid locations and, when complemented with backup or storage technologies, can bring remote operations and communities closer to energy autonomy. They also reduce emissions created by burning diesel/gas fuel.

Furthermore, in some areas the mining sector is already acknowledging that offsetting onsite fossil fuel power generation with renewable energy can reduce operating costs and improve energy security and productivity.

Viable and portable renewable energy alternative

The portable hybrid power plant, branded SunSHIFTTM, combines solar modules, conventional diesel/gas generators and optional energy storage so that users can benefit from the advantages of renewable solar power without having to commit to a permanent traditional solar installation.

SunSHIFT is being developed and commercialized by the global, UK-headquartered, engineering and construction company, Laing O’Rourke, in collaboration with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), as a modular system that will be manufactured offsite and transported to installation sites in container-sized, prefabricated modules. This will enable contractors to quickly assemble the power plant at a chosen location, or later disassemble and redeploy it to new sites as needed.

The system operates with ABB’s Microgrid Plus System, a proven distributed control system for microgrids that integrates all plant components. Microgrid Plus System has been specially designed to coordinate the operation of hybrid power stations, stabilizing and integrating renewable power generation into microgrid systems.

The external, prewired connections of the ABB control center and inverters enable fast, easy setup and dismantling. The distributed, modular design of Microgrid Plus Systems will make future control upgrades easy and risk-free. Another important factor that led to the selection of ABB is the ability for the system capacity to be expanded easily and for a modular concept the ABB solution is perfect. ABB is also supplying other equipment, such as solar inverters, controllers, remote access routers and Ethernet switches.

Portable hybrid systems such as this have the potential to provide both industries and communities in remote off-grid locations with a viable and portable renewable energy alternative, and would also be useful in emergency activities, such as relief efforts.

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