The PV world can expect changes and challenges ahead related to large-scale PV grid integration. Experts in the field from California in the United States can attest to the fact that control is effectively a brand new area of technology within the United States, and presents obstacles in two primary forms. According to Mr. Tom Tansy, Chairman of SunSpec Alliance, “One of the hurdles is having the manufacturers bring this capability online and move it through regulatory approvals while managing their supply chain as new technology comes on board. The second comes in terms of policy and that the challenge will be overcoming an uneven application of policies that might therefore lead to a misapplication of the regulation.

Limitations of today’s study process

Mr. Clyde Loutan, Senior Advisor Renewables Grid Integration of CaISO, discusses the limits that determine inverter characteristics and interconnection standards. “In North America, the need for reactive support from asynchronous resources must be identified during the interconnection process. However, the current study process cannot anticipate all operating conditions such as what resources or transmission elements will be out of service at the time reactive power needs arise.

A system impact study may reflect that there is sufficient reactive power capability on the transmission system because of the existing generators with reactive power capability and other reactive power devices. However, once an asynchronous project is interconnected and is commercially operable, actual system conditions could be far different from the conditions that had been studied. Interconnection studies are also time consuming and iterative in nature. If the CaISO were to study all possible operating conditions and outage schedules for existing resources to assess the need for an asynchronous resource to provide reactive support, the system impact study process would become unduly burdensome.

Both Tom Tansy and Clyde Loutan will be speaking or participating in a panel during the Solar Asset Management: North America conference.


Utility adjustment and the RPS program

Experts are split when it comes to the opinion of market development and its movement. On the one hand, Mr. Loutan states, “In California, utilities are adjusting to the 33% RPS (Renewables Portfolio Standard) and in most cases are on schedule to meeting this target.” Mr. Tansy’s stance varies slightly from Mr. Loutan’s when discussing the market’s development and movement at present. “RPS affects deployment of all solar. The utility business model is undergoing very dramatic change. There is an existential threat that is facing many utilities because of new players coming into the market- whether its distributed generation, or the so called “pro-sumer” movement. Are utilities moving fast enough? They are moving pretty quickly, though maybe not fast enough for some people’s appetites.

Role of PV over the next decade

The role of solar in California is only going to pick up over the next ten years. Mr. Loutan reports that “Solar PV is expected to account for over 50% of the variable renewable resources in the state [of California] by the end of the coming decade. This means that on some days the variable energy production could be over 50% of the overall resources on the system. With about half of the conventional resources being displaced, at times, PV resources as well as wind resources would have to provide voltage control and be also be able to provide some level of dispatchability.” The role of solar plus storage is going to be immense, and according to Mr. Tansy, will also become mainstream over the course of a decade.

Topics such as the aforementioned, among others, will be discussed in further detail at the Solar Asset Management North America Conference, held April 1-2, 2015 in San Francisco. Join other key experts in the field to learn how to better manage PV assets and portfolios, and optimize solar power plant performance. After all, maintains Mr. Loutan, “Solar PV can be part of the solution by possessing the capability to provide the necessary operating characteristics in order to integrate higher levels of renewables.”