Clever cloud tracker that maximises solar PV use enters the market

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Fulcrum 3D has sold its first CloudCAM cloud tracking systems to utility-scale solar customers, following a pilot project supported by $569,200 ARENA funding.

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This advanced cloud tracking system combines fit-for-purpose camera hardware with specialised algorithms to predict the changes in energy output of solar photovoltaic (PV) plants.

By predicting solar PV output, the technology tells operators to switch diesel generators on before production drops, smoothing energy delivery and potentially allowing more solar to be used.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the technology not only reduces the cost of power and the need for battery storage, but also enables increased solar energy yield.

“Fulcrum3D’s CloudCAM solution uses ground mounted cameras to track cloud movements. The advanced technology can even track clouds that are layered at different altitudes and moving at different speeds,” he said.

“There is potential for this technology to be combined with the next wave of solar PV plants built in Australia, including those seeking funding through ARENA’s $100 million large-scale solar competitive funding round.”

Fulcrum3D Technical Director Colin Bonner said the company was delighted to be working with several developers and operators of remote, hybrid PV power stations across Australia to integrate CloudCAM.

“Three new commercial solar sites across Australia have purchased CloudCAMs in the last month, including two Epuron sites. The two Epuron sites at Ti-Tree and Kalkarindji in the Northern Territory are the first high penetration PV power stations in Australia to use cloud forecasting to smooth solar power output. CloudCAM has been successfully integrated into the control systems at the two power stations, enabling autonomous operation,” Mr Bonner said.

“In addition to increasing revenue, the integration of CloudCAM at the Ti Tree site has seen a significantly lower demand for energy from its storage system, reducing cycling of the batteries and increasing battery life. We have also begun trials on advanced sensors, with ARENA’s support, which aim to increase CloudCAM’s predictive capability in utility-scale solar power stations with large geographical footprints.”

Fulcrum3D was established in 2011 by Fulcrum Energy and its partner Orang-utan Engineering to develop, manufacture, market and support remote sensing equipment for solar and wind energy applications. In addition to CloudCAM, the Fulcrum3D product range includes wind monitoring with the compact-beam Sodar as well as solar resource and weather monitoring.