Tests were conducted on a 300 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant operated in California by First Solar to determine if renewable resources could provide operating characteristics similar to a conventional resource.

The unit was tested for its ability to provide ancillary services, such as frequency response, regulation up and down, voltage control, and active power management.

Schematic of grid integration and plant control systems used by First Solar. Source: First SolarSchematic of grid integration and plant control systems used by First Solar. Source: First SolarThe evaluation performed by the California Independent System Operator (ISO), the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and First Solar documented solar unit performance comparable to, or better than, conventional resources.

The results showed how smart inverter technology can leverage PV technology from simply generating as a variable energy resource to providing ancillary services, such as spinning reserves, load following, voltage support, ramping, frequency response and regulation, and power quality.

The ISO plans similar testing on a large wind plant. Because wind farms use similar smart power-based technology, it is anticipated they will also be able to provide these types of grid reliability services.

Drawing reliability services from solar and wind plants helps balance the grid during times of high renewable production and allows more clean energy to penetrate the system. This is essential for the state to be able to reach its goal of getting half its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

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