This is an excerpt from the November 8, 2012: Small business funding, utility-focused solutions, and great gains for solar jobs edition of the SunShot newsletter.
SunShot Awardee Spotlight: Advanced Energy
High-Penetration PV Improvements Aim to Stabilize the Energy Grid
Advanced Energy (AE) and its partners are working to address an array of interrelated needs to allow for increased deployment of photovoltaic (PV) systems. With support from a competitive Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems—Advanced Concepts (SEGIS-AC) award, the team is demonstrating and commercializing a set of new technologies that can increase the stability, reliability, and functionality of the electricity grid as more solar energy systems come online.
"The SunShot Initiative helped us to form a number of technical partnerships with industry experts while bringing us (as manufacturers) together with the utilities," said Michael Mills-Price, Control Solutions Manager for AE Solar Energy. "Through these partnerships, we are both educating the utilities on PV system capabilities and learning about the challenges they are encountering from a control and operations standpoint."
One of the multi-faceted concepts of AE Solar Energy's SEGIS-AC contract includes a method to reliably detect a loss of connection to the utility without "false trips." Another technology under development ensures that deploying high amounts of PV does not cause excessive feeder losses or cause adverse interactions with utility voltage regulation equipment through advanced PV control. Finally, by adding energy storage, it aims to smooth PV plant output fluctuations due to passing clouds and thereby relieve the stresses on other generation plants that provide fast compensation for PV.
According to Mills-Price, these capabilities are all designed to help utilities view PV not as a "negative load" on their electrical grid, but instead, as an asset. The project aims to significantly reduce high-penetration PV costs, reduce certification costs for installers, and increase the level of PV penetration on the nation's grids by removing existing high-penetration barriers.