In March 2015 the University of Queensland (UQ) commissioned a 3.275 MW photovoltaic research plant at its rural Gatton campus, 80 km west of Brisbane.
The plant was funded under the Federal Government’s Education Investment Fund (EIF) program with the utility-scale AGL Solar PV Project at Nyngan and Broken Hill in NSW. Comprised of fixed, single axis and dual axis arrays, the plant was designed to allow researchers to investigate different array configurations and explore techniques for optimising grid integration.
As part of the PV plant approvals process, UQ had to negotiate a customer connection contract with Energex, the local Distribution Network Service Provider (DNSP). While adopting Energex’s standard commercial terms and conditions, the agreement required specific technical conditions to be met to reassure the utility that power quality would not be compromised. Conditions were sought that would preserve the utility’s obligations to other customers, while allowing UQ to connect the PV installation without unnecessary constraints.
Resolution of technical constraints
The technical conditions were negotiated over some seven months. Although there were more than 20 initial contentious clauses, many of these were quickly resolved. Some challenges included addressing regulations which were framed for rotating machines rather than inverter energy systems. Other difficulties revolved around the nuances associated with collocating load with similarly sized generation on a single point of supply.
Some of the key performance requirements were more difficult to resolve however, and these consumed most of the negotiating period. It was essential during these negotiations to focus on the technical facts of any contentious issues and seek mutually beneficial solutions.
The resulting agreement was a workable solution that satisfied the DNSP’s obligations to its other customers and allowed UQ to realise its research and generation objectives.
A paper discussing the technical negotiations was presented at the 2014 Asia Pacific Solar Research Conference and published in Energy Generation (Sep 2015). It describes some of the key issues and may provide a guide for future PV installation connection agreements on distribution networks.
The agreement's technical schedules are available for download here.
Image: Dual axis array, Gatton Solar Research Facility
Technical Manager UQ Solar