Hawaii is one of the hottest solar markets in the world. Good solar resources, high electricity prices, and low solar panel prices have made it one of the first markets to hit “grid parity.” But there are still challenges getting the utilities to accept and allow this, as well as actually integrating the electricity into the grid.
SolarCity, the top home solar company in the US, and the National Renewable Energy Agency (NREL) have teamed up on a “cooperative research agreement…to address operational issues associated with high degrees of distributed solar penetration on electrical grids.”
Also involved is Hawaiian Electric Companies. Together, the companies and NREL will use advanced modeling and inverter testing at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in order to develop a better understanding of what happens and how to deal with high-penetration solar markets.
“This is an excellent opportunity to utilize ESIF’s unique capability to evaluate system-level issues such as anti-islanding, and help reduce risk and minimize the R&D challenges a power distributor or producer may face,” NREL’s Director of Partnerships for Energy Systems Integration Martha Symko-Davies said.
NREL writes: “NREL has completed load rejection over voltage (LRO) testing and will be completing ground fault overvoltage testing shortly. This testing will allow Hawaiian Electric to approve photovoltaic (PV) deployments to customers who have been waiting for interconnection on these high penetration solar circuits.” Interconnection delays have long been an issue in Hawaii, and many have put this down to an attempt to slow the solar power revolution, which eats into investor revenue and profits.
“We’re pleased that Hawaiian Electric agreed to partner on these important tests and commend them for taking early test results and instituting policy changes that will help Hawai’i’s solar industry. Our collaboration has been fruitful and we look forward to continuing our work together,” said Jon Yoshimura, SolarCity’s Director of Policy and Electricity Markets.
SolarCity and the US Department of Energy, under the SunShot Initiative, are sharing the cost of this project.