Pacific Gas & Electric is projecting that half of the solar photovoltaic (PV) connected to its electric distribution system will be equipped with smart inverters within two years, according to a company study.
PG&E also forecasted that one million smart inverters total will be on its system by 2025. The study reports on the northern California-based utility’s Electric Program Investment Charge project (EPIC).
California’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs) began requiring smart inverters on all new solar interconnections starting September 8, 2017, through the California Public Utility Commission’s Rule 21 tariff. A standard inverter converts power from solar panels and batteries from its native direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) which can be used on site or fed into the power grid.
A smart inverter is a more sophisticated version of an inverter that makes autonomous decisions that can help maintain grid stability, reliability and power quality, according to the report.
“We have a long history of embracing innovation and new technologies for the benefit of our customers and the communities we serve,” Roy Kuga, vice president of grid integration and innovation at PG&E, said in a statement. “The smart inverters being installed on our customers’ solar and energy storage systems, paired with our investment in grid operations systems and technology, show promise to facilitate distribution system reliability and power quality in the increasingly complex grid.”
Working with JKB Energy, PG&E is testing smart inverter capabilities on commercial-scale solar installations for agricultural customers. These installations are all connected to the same distribution line in Merced County, and this particular circuit already has a high penetration of solar-generated electricity and has experienced problems as a result of the amount of solar currently installed.
The project includes installing smart inverters to prevent the inverter from contributing to voltage issues, ensure greater electric reliability, and facilitate the continued integration of additional solar, according to the company. JKB Energy installed and maintains the customer-owned solar generating stations.
This project is funded by PG&E customers through EPIC – a program that enables California investor-owned utilities to demonstrate new and novel technologies and evaluate how they support safety, reliability, and affordability objectives for the benefit of their customers.