The variable nature of solar power presents a challenge to utilities aiming to integrate large volumes of photovoltaic (PV) systems onto the electric grid. While many utilities encourage customers to install distributed PV systems in their service areas, they must also continue to ensure that grid power remains reliable and safe. Utilities hope that, in the future, smart grid technologies will help them manage the effects of increased PV penetration.
A recent study published by global management and technology services company Accenture, shows that a significant percentage (38 percent) of utility executives believe that increased penetration of PV systems onto the electric grid could undermine the reliability, safety and quality of the power supply if they do not plan accordingly. The study, based on a survey of 50 executives from 31 North American utilities, reveals that many utilities believe they will need to upgrade transmission and distribution capabilities, and most of them would rather do so using automated solutions rather than manual intervention.
Accenture reports that many utilities are already performing some key functions that will help them successfully integrate PV, including performing grid analytics (48 percent), PV systems control (44 percent) and commercial transactions (32 percent). The company recommends that utilities develop comprehensive roadmaps, invest in smart grid technologies and provide the infrastructure, systems and processes necessary to proactively facilitate PV deployment. This could include exploring new ownership models for PV systems: the survey found that over half (51 percent) of PV systems are customer-owned, compared to utility-owned (34 percent) and third-party or developer-owned (15%).
“Solar power has great potential as a source of renewable energy as developers continue to innovate and reduce the cost of PV production,” said David M. Rouls, managing director, Accenture Smart Grid Services. “However, the large-scale penetration of solar PV will require smart grid planning and changes by utilities to realize its benefits.”
Help Carbonfund toward their goal of planting 1,000,000 trees. Subscribe to Green Earthling Deals by Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, and EarthTechling will donate $1 for every new subscriber. See contest rules for details. Sign up in the upper right-hand corner at EarthTechling.com or right here.