Hawaii is the furthest state from the continental U.S. as such its power generation sources are more limited than in the rest of the U.S. As such solar is becoming a big player in the state, since it doesn’t require the expensive imports like oil or diesel. But it’s also becoming a test-case for how the grid can deal with more distributed solar power.
Today (Nov. 20) the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced that it and SolarCity are joining together to research the how large amounts of distributed solar energy on electrical grids affect them. In doing so the two are also collaborating with the Hawaiian Electric Companies to, “analyze high penetration solar scenarios using advanced modeling and inverter testing at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF),” NREL said.
"We know how important the option of solar is for our customers. Solving these issues takes everyone-utilities, the solar industry and other leading technical experts like NREL-working together. That's what this work is all about," Hawaiian Electric Vice President for Energy Delivery Colton Ching said. "With the highest amount of solar in the nation, our utilities are facing potential reliability and safety issues before anywhere else."
Another facet of the testing will look at SolarCity’s PV generation curtailment hardware and software, which can change the amount of solar its customers’ systems put on the grid based on the grid’s needs. "SolarCity is committed to ensuring that solar is an asset to grid operators, and this partnership will take us further towards that goal," SolarCity Chief Technology Officer Peter Rive said.
The ESIF is at NREL’s facility in Golden, Colo. There the parties can emulate and analyze the behavior of distributed electricity generation and distribution devices in a testing environment. The tests will explore the dynamics between inverter-based assets on a grid system, voltage regulation and bi-directional power flows. The results of testing could help assuage utilities’ fears of how more distributed solar on the grid could impact grid stability and could also point out any other issues utilities will have to deal with in high distributed solar power scenarios.
"This is an excellent opportunity to utilize ESIF's unique power hardware-in-the-loop capability with inverter-based assets," NREL Director of Partnerships for Energy Systems Integration Martha Symko-Davies said. "This capability will be used to help utilities evaluate the impact of distributed energy resources like solar technologies on distribution systems and help them find solutions to utilizing these technologies in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner at scale."
The project is being funded equally by SolarCity and the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative through a cost-share program.Tweet