The solar industry is rapidly expanding in Australia and new solar products are being introduced to the market constantly. To see how they can operate in harsh Aussie climate conditions, let’s head to the Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre (DKASC).
What is the Desert Knowledge Australia?
The Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre is a demonstration facility of PV systems from multiple solar panel technologies with different brands and makes. The data (meteorological and power output) is easily available online for everyone who is interested in it.
It was opened in 2008 by the former Environment Minister, Peter Garret as a valuable resource for Australian researchers and worldwide solar installers. It provides solar designers with new ways of interacting and analysing data about meteorological factors and power outputs from different module technologies.
DKASC is part of a bigger complex known as the Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) where multiple activities related to Aboriginal culture and renewable energy take place.
The research centre was initially developed using a $3.1 million grant from the Commonwealth and the Australian Federal Government, along with help from institutions like Ekistica and the Centre for Appropriate Technology.
The DKASC is located in the Northern Territory, 15 minutes drive from Alice Springs, and when you reach that point you will be able to freely walk through the installation and take a look at all the available technologies.
The selection of the place is strictly related to the elevated solar resource available which makes it excellent for PV installations due to the ideal conditions.
The DKASC features over 40 solar installations (from different research partners, models and ages) that are built and connected to the grid to reduce the consumption from the DKA complex.
This is what the Alice Springs DKASC map looks like:
What Information is Provided by DKASC?
The first and maybe the most interesting part of the DKASC is the map where you will find all the arrays that are part of the complex.
You can easily sort through all the solar arrays and click on them to obtain data related to the daily, hourly or monthly power output of the array.
It is also possible to check and download the meteorological data related to rainfall, air temperature, global horizontal irradiance (GHI) and even wind speed.
You will be able to look at the historical data of the installations since the year of their installation to today’s energy output since the values are published directly online.
In addition, you can sort through all the solar arrays by filtering type of technology, array structure, module manufacturer or the installation year itself.
How to Compare the Solar PV Systems?
The principal factor that will determine the power output of your PV array will be the selection of the module.
Today there are thousands of models from different brands available on the market and choosing among all available brands and models might not be easy at first sight.
The DKASC offers a valuable tool to help you choose from different models to compare the power output of each module in order to categorise the performance of each one under the ideal conditions.
The best thing about DKASC is that the power output is presented under normalised values.
As you can see on the map, there are multiple arrays of different sizes, brands, models, ages and technologies.
But if you directly compare energy output values, you won’t be able to draw a conclusion from the data since the different variables won’t allow you to establish the same ground rules and effectively compare the performance of each module.
However, if you have normalized values that are referred to as kWh/kWp installed units, then it means the size and model of the array won’t make a difference and you will have the information to effectively compare the performance of each module type.
When using historical data, select the same range of time to evaluate the performance on the same period of operation, then the age of the system won’t matter.
The only remaining variables will be the technology used and the brand itself! That makes the selection of a PV module type for your own array much easier!
What Solar Modules are Available in the DKASC?
You will find modules from companies like: BP Solar, Calyxo, Canadian Solar, CSUN, Eco-Kinetics, Elkem, Evergreen Solar, First Solar, Hanergy, Hanwha Solar, Kaneka, Kyocera, NovoPolymers, Q CELLS, REC, Sanyo, Soleo, SolFocus, Solibro, Sungrid, SunPower, TDG, Tindo, Trina Solar and Winaico.
The DKASC is an amazing online tool that can be used by developers and for solar fanatics to compare available technologies using normalised energy output values.
You will find solar arrays of different sizes, technologies and brands that will allow you to evaluate performance accurately and technically by taking a look at the actual output of real installations (even better than simulations).
Finally, it is also important to mention that the DKASC recently expanded the research available to another facility centre besides Alice Springs, known as Yulara, that is close to Alice Springs and to the Uluru KataTjuta National Park.
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Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.
Photo credit: DKA