Massachusetts Utility Seeks to Stay “Ahead of the Game” with Solar Grid Penetration

On May 9, Trimark Associates announced that it would be implementing its supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) technology at two 1-MW solar PV sites in Fall River, Massachusetts. Borrego Solar is building the projects, which are part of a test bed of 14 PV generation sites owned by National Grid.

Stephen Yee, the Director of SCADA Engineering at Trimark, said that National Grid is concerned that with increased penetration of PV on  circuits, voltage problems may arise. According to Yee, the utility is being tasked with “looking at not your traditional ways of handling voltage through your voltage regulators but taking advantage of some of the advanced inverter controls that are available at these particular sites.”

He added, “So we have been contracted through Borrego Solar to help them develop these advanced inverter controls.”

According to Yee, Trimark’s system mitigates grid issues related to distributed energy resources by providing grid stability support. It enables grid operators to manage point-of-interconnection (POI) power characteristics in real time by taking advantage of and integrating many of the advanced controls that inverters already possess. “Our core competency is having the ability to integrate all of the devices,” he said.

Providing stable, reliable power to the grid from a PV system is becoming increasingly important, especially in places like California and Hawaii where PV penetration is large. “What we are seeing right now out there on the grid, there are a lot of different variations, you hear a lot about voltage regulation and a lot about power factor control,” said Yee. He said that Trimark has worked on solving some of the “more complex” algorithms such as when a utility might want a PV system to operate at a fixed power factor within a particular voltage range and then “outside of that range, they want you to provide frequency regulation.”

As utilities make greater demands on the power quality that PV systems supply, having greater control at the POI could be increasingly important.

While the site owner purchases a system like Trimark’s, the host utility would also have control of it. This is something that Yee is seeing more and more of particularly in California. He explained that sometimes a new developer that is working in SCE territory will be unfamiliar with utility requirements and SCE will refer them to Trimark.

While PV penetration is not as large in Massachusetts as it is in California, utilities are already “seeing the effects [of PV on the grid],” said Yee.

“Lessons learned, right? You don’t want to repeat what happened in Germany where the utility is going to go out and have to retrofit every single inverter out there,” he said.  

“I think the simple way to put that is they are trying to get ahead of the game before there is a problem,” said Yee.

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Jennifer Runyon
Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com Today, in addition to managing content on Renewable Energy World and POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference and expo for the transmission and distribution industry. In her role, she works in close cooperation with a large team of committed industry executives to shape the educational content for the event. She also helps assemble the renewable energy content for POWERGEN and helped launch the first Grid-Scale Storage Summit, a co-located event at HYDROVISION International. She has traveled to Germany to see onshore and offshore wind installations; Iceland to see geothermal energy in action; and France to see cutting-edge smart grids. In the U.S. she has visited and reported about bioenergy power plants in Florida, both large-scale and small-scale hydropower; and multiple wind farms, solar PV, and CSP installations. Formerly, she was the managing editor of Innovate Forum, an online publication that focused on innovation in manufacturing. Prior to that she was the managing editor at Desktop Engineering magazine. In 2008, she won an "Eddy Award" for her editing work on an article about solar trees in Vienna. In 2010, RenewableEnergyWorld.com was awarded an American Business Media Neal Award for its eNewsletters, which were created under her direction. She holds a Master's Degree in English Education from Boston University and a BA in English from the University of Virginia.

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