Articles

This is What Happens When Your Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather

by Rudy P. SysAdmin at howtofindthemoney
Recharging a mobile phone with a solar panel when you’re camping might be a wheeze, but don’t expect solar to deliver serious power when you need it most.

A few years back, Greenpeace turned up in an Indian village, Dharnai and supplied it with a solar-powered micro-grid, crowing that “Dharnai refused to give into the trap of the fossil fuel industry”.

Locals had collected $US680 in the hope of buying access to the central power grid, which is fed by coal-fired power plants. But Greenpeace swooped to the ‘rescue’ with a solar system.

The day the electricity was turned on, the batteries were drained of power within a few hours. And locals were as furious as they were perplexed, having been promised around-the-clock power by Greenpeace and its acolytes.

A boy from Dharnai, hoping to do his homework early in the morning before leaving to work in the fields, was disappointed because there wasn’t enough power to run the family’s single electric lamp.

Oh, and then there was the cost. Power from Greenpeace’s self-contained solar system is three times more expensive than coal-fired power delivered by the central power grid, and it also requires the use of energy-efficient light bulbs, that cost 66 times more than normal light bulbs.



Dharnai’s inhabitants became fed up with the cost and unreliability of Greenpeace’s solar miracle, and demanded to be connected to the central power grid.

Shortly after firing up the local solar micro-grid, Greenpeace invited the state Chief Minister to the village so he could meet the grateful inhabitants.

However, the Minister was met by a large and angry mob, waving signs and singing songs demanding “real electricity” (the kind you can use to run the stove and the refrigerator) and not “fake electricity” (meaning solar energy).

Proving that all politics is local, a week later, a 100kW transformer was installed, and Dharnai started receiving reliable and affordable coal-fired power. You can read more on the story here: The Cruel Hypocrisy: West Drops Wind Power as it Forces ‘Fake Electricity’ on the World’s Poor

Closer to home, in October last year, Alice Springs (in Australia’s Red Centre) suffered a widespread blackout that lasted for around nine hours, thanks to a little pesky cloud cover that interfered with the output from its thousands of solar panels, which are meant to provide a substantial proportion of the power needed to run the outback town of around 29,000 inhabitants.

The NT government’s spin doctors went into damage control, with a waffling response that avoided any reference to solar panels being the (obvious) culprits, as the ABC dutifully reported:

The outage was caused by a cloud which rolled in to Alice Springs about 2:00pm on Sunday, which caused a “reasonably large increase” to the system, Mr Duignan said. “That resulted in the majority of our units going into an overload condition,” he said.

“Those units stayed in an overload condition for a number of minutes before they tripped off on their protection systems … the battery energy storage system went to full output before it tripped off as a consequence of the outage.”

So, what type of power source might be interfered with by “a cloud”? For more on that embarrassing RE failure, see Jo Nova’s post: Oopsie solar-battery fail? Cloud causes System Black event at Alice Springs affecting thousands

And still the NT continues to suffer from weather travesties, where clouds seem to be conspiring against Territorians, with another widespread solar power fail.

Telstra struggling with overcast conditions, flooding, to keep solar-powered network up

Telstra says the stations that provide landline and mobile phone coverage to some remote communities in Central Australia are not robust enough to withstand several days of cloud cover.

Key points:

  • Under days of cloud cover, solar-powered Telstra stations do not charge and can run empty, resulting in no phone coverage
  • The telco’s staff are tackling bushfire reconstruction on the eastern seaboard, removing staff from the region
  • Outages mean ATMs can’t be used and power cards can’t be purchased — the pre-paid electricity system used in remote communities
  • The region has received significant rainfall recently thanks to ex-cyclone Esther, and as a result several communities have gone without phone coverage for more than 24 hours at a time.

“[The stations] are powered by solar power-charged batteries which charge during the day and last through the night,” Telstra’s Nic Danks said.

He said that in bad weather, however, the batteries do not charge and they can run empty, meaning that several days of cloud cover could result in no coverage.

“The issue is power. And we need to replace the batteries at those sites. It’s been a bad year for us and we apologise to customers at those sites,” he said.

He said that in these situations, Telstra typically deploys a technician with a back-up generator.

But because of the rain, some of the stations were inaccessible.

“Once the roads are flooded [we] throw our arms up in the air about that one,” he said.

Mr Danks said that recent bushfires had also removed staff from the region.

“We’ve all seen what’s happened on the eastern seaboard, to our infrastructure as well, so the guys that we would usually pull out and bring to this are tied up doing those jobs,” Mr Danks said.

He said communities could expect further service outages.

“If this weather continues, and the batteries there aren’t getting recharged, and we can’t get there, then yes — we may still have some interruptions,” he said.

Network loss means no food, fuel, power

The communities of Santa Teresa and Titjikala, south-east of Alice Springs, were without mobile and landline coverage for over thirty hours in a recent outage.

Several communities north-west of Alice Springs, home to over 2,000 people, have also been affected by frequent service disruptions.

In the most recent outage, Santa Teresa was also cut off by road because of flooding.

Santa Teresa parish assistant Sister Liz Wiemers said being that isolated was alarming.

“We couldn’t use ATMs, couldn’t buy fuel, community members couldn’t buy power cards,” Sister Wiemers said, referring to the pre-paid electricity system used in remote communities.

“If someone wanted the police or the clinic they just couldn’t get them. It wasn’t good. And the road was closed as well.”
ABC

Three days of clouds and solar and battery fails leaving remote community cut off without phones

If solar power and batteries were a winner anywhere, we’d hope it would be in remote Australian communities. But a cyclone clouded over Central-Australia for a few days and the batteries ran out. People had no money, no phone and no landline either. To boot, the rain flooded the roads, so people were cut off in every sense.

Welcome to Renewable World:

Telstra says the stations that provide landline and mobile phone coverage to some remote communities in Central Australia are not robust enough to withstand several days of cloud cover.

The communities of Santa Teresa and Titjikala, south-east of Alice Springs, were without mobile and landline coverage for over thirty hours in a recent outage.

In the most recent outage, Santa Teresa was also cut off by road because of flooding.

Santa Teresa parish assistant Sister Liz Wiemers said being that isolated was alarming.

“We couldn’t use ATMs, couldn’t buy fuel, community members couldn’t buy power cards,” Sister Wiemers said, referring to the pre-paid electricity system used in remote communities.

Obviously they need diesel-gens as a back up. But because the roads were blocked Telstra couldn’t send any technicians out with one. They said they need to replace those batteries, but may not be able to for a while (busy repairing things in the fire-zones presumably).

This is what 100% renewable looks like. Hope no one needs a doctor.


About Rudy P. Magnate II   SysAdmin at howtofindthemoney

3,932 connections, 64 recommendations, 13,601 honor points.
Joined APSense since, April 9th, 2013, From Solo, Indonesia.

Created on Mar 11th 2020 01:52. Viewed 264 times.

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