What makes a utility want more distributed solar PV? In my experience, utilities look askance at the addition of distributed (small scale) rooftop and ground-mounted solar PV in their territories. First, these systems reduce utility revenue. Second, they create additional risks for line workers. Third, high penetrations (greater than 20%) of distributed solar PV on a single distribution feeder get increasingly disruptive to feeder operations, risking two-way power flow and potential damage to distribution substation equipment. Fourth, “dumb” PV systems cannot be dispatched by control center operators.
But what if the distributed systems came equipped with a smart PV inverter; one that could provide ancillary services on the distribution feeder, communicate with the utility, and even provide some energy storage so that the utility could use the devices to help harmonize the power on the distribution feeder. Now that would get the utility’s attention and they may even want some of that kind of solar PV on every one of their feeders.
Well, that‘s the outlook for 2015, according to “The World Market for PV Inverters”, a report released recently by IMS Research. A July 26 press release on PVmarketresearch.com highlights the report and shows sales of Smart PV inverters passing sales of standard inverters within three years, driven by “utility concerns over grid imbalances, the growing proportion of PV connected to the grid, as well as the need for energy storage to take advantage of self-consumption tariffs and further incorporate PV into the smart grid.”
Given the maturity of distributed generation system penetration in Germany, we should watch developments in Europe closely to understand how distributed energy resources will impact smart grid and utility operations going forward.
Smart Grid Lead Consultant
John Cooper is an industry-leading author and researcher on the Smart Grid with over 20 years of experience in the utilities and energy industry. He has specialized expertise in business development and consulting at innovative electric and telecommunications companies and has led key Smart Grid projects associated with utility IP networks, AMI, distributed generation, demand response, energy efficiency, virtual power plants, utility-scale energy storage and more. Cooper is co-author of the newly released “The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability,” a practical perspective on the advent and evolution of Smart Grids.