The NASA owned, CSIRO operated Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is looking to go solar, naturally, via a power purchase agreement and a purpose built large-scale solar farm.
In a tender launched at the end of last month, the CSIRO called for expressions of interest to build a ground-mounted solar array of around 850kW in size at the CDSCC, located in Tidbinbilla, about 34km south west of the Canberra CBD.
The CSIRO intends to buy all of the output of the proposed solar farm, through a power purchase agreement for the supply of on-site solar generated electricity.
“The purpose of the installation is to save ongoing costs by providing an alternative energy supply at a lower tariff than current / predicted grid supply, and decrease site demand on the CDSCC’s utility power supplier,” the tender says.
“The installation shall be designed to maximise CSIRO’s utility cost savings while ensuring that power cannot be fed back into the utility supply network.”
There isnot mention of battery storage in the contract, but the tender does call for the “associated balance of system” for the solar array.
The CDSCC is one of three deep-space communications facilities established by NASA approximately 120 degrees apart around the world – the others are near Goldstone, in California’s Mojave Desert; and near Madrid, in Spain.
The Australian base was established during the 1960s, to support the Mariner 4 spacecraft encounter with Mars, and later to assist with the Apollo missions to the Moon.
By 1970 the complex featured its own power station, facilities to manage the sewage and water supplies, a cafeteria, and accommodation for the many workers on site.
According to the website, the CDSCC is currently supporting over 30 NASA missions, including the high profile Voyagers, Mars Rovers, and Hubble missions, used to “increases our understanding of our own small world and the universe.”
The tender notes that CSIRO will supply the land and connection point for the solar farm, the final size of which would be up to the contractor, “but should be designed and sized so as to provide the highest benefit to CSIRO.”
“Internal investigation by CSIRO suggests an array of around 850kW will provide the highest return and meet the export constraints, noting CSIRO intends to purchase all generation from the system.”
As we reported here last month, the nation’s premier scientific and research agency – which has been a major contributor to renewable energy research and development in Australia – has a renewable energy target of 5MW of on-site renewable energy generation by 2020.
A tender for 1MW of additional PV panels at its Canberra Black Mountain facility, and another 1.2MW across sites in Queensland and South Australia was launched in October.
“A key opportunity exists for CSIRO to hedge against the predicted upward price trend in electricity prices by investing today in alternative renewable energy sources to power their sites,” the tender documents say.
“The installation of large scale on-site renewable energy generation is a key mechanism to reduce CSIRO’s carbon footprint.”