Four years since it came online, a wind-solar-battery microgrid has been able to meet all the electricity needs of a Chilean mining town.

 

Nidec Industrial Solutions engineered the microgrid for Enel Green Power, with a combined total power of 250kW/750kWh, to replace diesel generation to power the remote town of Ollague.

When it was reliant on diesel the town was limited to having an electricity supply to 18 hours a day. Getting the fuel to the site was challenging, as Ollague is at an altitude of 3700m.

“The idea was to have the integrated wind, solar PV and battery system provide power round the clock for the residents and have diesel generation only for back-up. Since 2014, the town hasn’t needed to switch its diesel generators on. It has been wholly reliant on clean energy,” says Kaila Haines, the company’s marketing director.

The microgrid integrates two wind turbines, two PV arrays, solar thermal systems and a diesel genset and is controlled by Nidec’s energy management system.

The constant supply of electricity has enabled the town to upgrade its public lighting to more energy efficient technology as well as provide heating for homes and electricity for preserving food and medicines. Since 2014 several small businesses and a hostel have also been established, able to take advantage of a 24/7 electricity supply.

(Credit: Nidec ASI)

According to Haines, in the four years since the Ollague microgrid was built, power prices based on renewables have continued to come down.

“With solar power purchase agreements as low as $36/MWh and those for wind as low as $21/MWh, it’s becoming economically feasible to do these types of projects. We’re seeing interesting in several markets, including Australia, the Middle East, parts of Africa as well as the US,” she says.

In markets where the grid is weak or there is no infrastructure clean microgrids can provide power for local communities, while in developed markets, microgrids are seen as a cost-effective alternative to investing in upgrading and replacing aging transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure and future-proofing grids.