Hybrid wind solar power study for remote rail communications sites

Potts, Jayde (2018) Hybrid wind solar power study for remote rail communications sites. [USQ Project]


There are many remote mine sites in the Pilbara region, Western Australia. These are linked by thousands of kilometres of heavy haul railway used for transporting ore from the mines to the port for shipping.

Many of these mines use automation to increase productivity, efficiency and safety of the operation. Most of these systems operate via wireless communications provided by a mesh network of solar powered communications trailers strategically placed for optimum coverage around the mining pits.

The reliance on communications is increasing with the move to fully automated haul trucks, drill rigs and locomotives. This communications infrastructure often has no connection to mains power and relies entirely on solar PV generation with battery storage. Power outages are common at sites in extended periods of heavy cloud cover. These power outages cause interruptions to the mining and rail operation costing the business many thousands of dollars in lost production.

There is a perceived problem that there is not always enough solar resource to maintain sufficient charge to these communications site battery banks. This project investigated whether the sites will benefit through the addition of a wind turbine to provide an alternate supply of energy to the communications sites.

Based on current forecasting of at least one locomotive passing every 20 minutes an investigation was undertaken to determine how much electricity could be generated from a wind turbine placed near the railway. It found that placing a suitable wind turbine with a low cut in speed 3.5 meters from the railway could generate up to an extra 113% of electricity from the wind turbulence created by passing locomotives compared to locating the same turbine away from the railway.

Simulations using HOMER Pro micro-grid modelling software were used to assess the renewable energy options and their suitability for supporting the system load requirements. It was identified that the designed backup battery time should be sufficient to maintain power for at least 7 days without any solar charge. Additional wind power generated from a small sized wind turbine up to 3 kW was minimal compared to the existing PV array.

The primary cause of unexpected power failures is deteriorated battery banks that have gone undetected until some heavy cloud cover places a little more demand on the batteries. It is in these cases sites will lose power often through the night when the batteries have not had a full charge during the day.

The recommendation is that health checking of the batteries and solar PV system is performed using data already being captured with existing SCADA systems. An early warning of a deteriorated power system prompting urgent maintenance will likely prevent or reduce the frequency of these power failures.

Improved condition monitoring that automatically generates work orders based on site performance would also reduce the ongoing maintenance cost when compared to fixed time interval maintenance.

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Item Type: USQ Project
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (1 Jul 2013 - 31 Dec 2021)
Supervisors: Helwig, Andreas
Qualification: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Electrical and Electronic)
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2022 01:09
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2023 02:28
Uncontrolled Keywords: hybrid wind solar power; remote mine sites; rail communications; wind turbine
URI: https://sear.unisq.edu.au/id/eprint/40701

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