New research aims to tackle ‘dispatch downtime’ in Ireland’s solar power plants

2 Aug 2022

From left: IERC’s Rohit Trivedi, Amarenco executive chair John Mullins, IERC members Shafi Khadem, Sandipan Patra and Padraig Lyons. Image: Gerard McCarthy

Researchers at IERC are teaming up with Amarenco to optimise energy storage in solar plants with the help of AI.

A new project by the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) aims reduce the amount of time when solar power plants are required to stop producing energy.

The COSTORE research project is looking to cut down on the ‘dispatch downtime’ that occurs in solar energy plants around Ireland.

Also called dispatch down, this is when renewable energy operators are required to stop producing energy due to curtailments or constraints within local power networks.

Wind Energy Ireland said that almost 8pc of wind generation was lost in the beginning of 2019 due to this practice. It can cause issues in the renewables space, which already has to deal with fluctuating levels of energy generation based on weather conditions.

To solve this problem, IERC researchers based at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork will examine the full potential of solar power plants and battery energy storage systems (BESS) working side by side.

They have teamed up with Amarenco, one of the largest solar power plant developers in Ireland, to find ways to increase energy storage so these plants can reduce their downtime to zero.

COSTORE aims to increase the amount of renewable energy Ireland produces and help solar plants to participate in ancillary grid services. The project is being funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Tyndall National Institute’s head of energy research, Prof Brian Norton, said the project will find ways to achieve “optimal contributions” from solar power plants with the support of energy storage and artificial intelligence.

“The rising levels of dispatch down compromise Ireland’s power system ability to reach its renewable energy targets [and] increase the financial risk for renewable energy-based power plant owners,” Norton added.

“It is, therefore, a priority to maintain dispatch downtimes at their minimum possible level.”

The principal investigator of COSTORE, Dr Shafi Khadem, said the project will present a “bottom-up analysis” of solar plants and energy storage systems operating side by side, and look to find the best combination to achieve zero downtime.

“We will also look at why plants have to stop producing energy at certain times, for instance because of limitations on the power system, over frequency, etc,” Khadem said. “Artificial intelligence techniques will play a vital role in delivering these innovative solutions.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic