GE & APS To Study Solar’s Grid Impact

GE researchers are working with Arizona Public Service to understand how large amounts of solar can best be integrated into today’s grid. APS, along with four partners, including GE, recently was awarded a US $3.3 million High Penetration Solar Deployment grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The study, which was approved earlier this month by the Arizona Corporation Commission, will take place in Flagstaff, Arizona. The team will help identify methods and technologies to optimize grid reliability and efficiency with the high concentration of distributed solar generation.

“APS’s solar demonstration project provides a great opportunity to understand the grid’s future needs as renewable energy resources like solar become a larger part of the nation’s overall energy portfolio,” said Kathleen O’Brien, Project Leader for GE and an Electrical Engineer in GE’s Smart Grid Lab. ”Much of the focus has been on new cell developments and system improvements to make solar more cost competitive, but the larger question is how to reliably integrate the higher penetrations of solar power expected. Through this study, we hope to gain more insight and answers.”

Specifically, O’Brien said that her team wants to understand what the current and new technologies are that will be needed to accommodate higher penetrations of solar, as well as what changes utility controllers can expect in how they manage power and  How the stability of the distribution network could be affected by fluctuating solar power production.

The utility plans to integrate 1.5 megawatts of solar power on a single “feeder”, or energy distribution area. Approximately 600 kilowatts (kW) will come from residential photovoltaic rooftop installations, 400 kW will be generated from installations on commercial business properties and 500 kW will be incorporated from a utility-scale solar park installation.

GE’s Brilliance solar inverter will be used by the utility to handle power conversion from the utility-scale solar installation. In addition to providing the solar inverter, GE researchers will be collecting data and doing power systems analysis on how the large influx of solar into this distribution network impacts the grid. GE researchers will be collecting and analyzing data over the next couple of years, with a full report to be completed by 2013.

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