At the InterSolar EU Conference in Munich, the Smarter E Award was given in recognition of a study that examined the use of various power controls integrated with a solar plant to gauge its responsiveness for variable power generation. The unprecedented test used a newly build utility-scale solar plant in California. The testing was conducted jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), First Solar, and grid operator California ISO (CAISO). The tests successfully demonstrated that utility-scale solar PV resources can be used to deliver essential services to ensure reliability of the electrical grid.
Furthermore, the tests demonstrated that solar plants with various types of active and reactive power controls can react rapidly to grid signals regarding frequency regulation, and do so more accurately than traditional electricity generation such as thermal, hydro or gas turbines. Also, the tests showed that solar electric output of such solar plants can be tightly regulated.
Advanced Power Controls and Solar Maximize PV Value
According to First Solar, the tests also showed the role of advanced power controls in maximizing solar PV’s value from simply offering an intermittent energy resource to delivering services, including spinning reserves, ramping, load following, voltage support, variability smoothing, frequency response, frequency regulation, and improved power quality.
In the award citation, the Smarter E review jury called the study “proof of concept… a game-changer for large-scale solar plants” that demonstrated how “solar power plants can not only reduce the need for carbon-emitting resources, but can also improve system performance and operate with significantly higher levels of variable generation.”
“The results of this project can be used as a door opener to convince stakeholders that utility-scale solar can contribute to the reliability and stability of the grid and provide essential grid services that are today often associated with conventional generation,” the citation concluded.