A study has urged further research to quantify the impact of integrating increasing levels of PV into the European electricity grid and the possible benefits it could bring.
A paper by the European Photovoltaic Technology Platform (EUPVTP) maintains that insufficient research exists to counter common misconceptions that the integration of PV into power systems is a “threat to stability or affordability”.
Instead, the EUPVTP study, which will be presented at EU PVSEC in Hamburg next week, said greater levels of PV on the grid should be seen as an opportunity, offering ancillary services and reducing the need for grid reinforcement in the face of increasing demand.
Although PV now accounts for some 3% of the EU’s electricity needs, its inherently decentralised and variable characteristics put it at odds with the incumbent technologies for which the power system has been designed, a fact that has been used to justify suggestions by some that too much of it will destabilise the grid.
But the EUPVPT report, ‘PV merging with the active integrated grid’, argued that there is no quantitative basis for such claims and that more research is therefore needed to educate stakeholders on the opportunities PV presents.
“Too often the integration of PV into power systems is seen as a threat to stability or affordability,” the report said. “We would like to highlight the opportunities that this integration represents. Indeed, PV systems can provide ancillary services and reduce the need for grid reinforcement in the face of increasing demand. At the centre of this potential lie advanced inverters and hybrid systems which combine PV with stationary storage or other power sources.”
The study said theoretically grids can sustain “unrestricted penetration” of distributed generation, as long as the quality of that supply is addressed at the point of connection, through modern power electronics and distributed control technologies. “Ancillary services can fully complement faultless commitment of distributed, renewable energy sources in line with market requirements,” it said.
But for this to happen, full cooperation of a wider range of key stakeholders would be needed to ensure swift adaptation of power systems to accommodate greater levels of decentralised sources such as PV.
Pierre-Jean Alet, leader of the EUPVTP’s grid integration working group, said: “First of all, our study shows that there is a need to harmonise and improve the existing methods to quantify the current and potential level of PV in power grids.
“Secondly, we prove that there are many technical solutions to increase the grid hosting capacity, some of which imply the use of smart PV capabilities like production adjustments to support grid frequency and voltage. But such solutions must be designed via close collaboration between the PV industry and other power sector stakeholders and must be underpinned by revised regulations and market rules.
“This evolution is driving a rethink of planning and operation rules for power grids, which can make more efficient and flexible use of the power infrastructure. The earlier the system adjusts to a new decentralised approach, the cheaper the evolution will be,” Alet added.