On August 21st this year, the United States will be shaded by a solar eclipse, testing the current plan of action for solar providers. As with prior eclipses across large solar markets, power grid operators know how to manage these events via fossil fuels backups. In a press release, SolarEdge announced a plan to collaborate with technologies like IBM’s cloud monitoring and solar forecasting to efficiently and automatically manage solar events and general grid complexity using distributed tools like solar panels level electronics and energy storage. These functions are a necessary part of broader suite of technologies needed by Hawaii and the whole of the USA as solar penetration increases.
In November, SolarEdge produced the first inverter to meet the UL 1741 Supplement A draft requirements. Residential photovoltaic system systems now have a host of smart features available to grid operators, including monitoring individual solar panels by remotely adjusting production for a better fit into the broader dynamics of a power grid. The UL requirements for smart inverter functions are applicable to the main U.S. market, and will lead to an expanded role of smarter PV inverters with more ability to store, monitor and manage smart grid interaction, said Lior Handelsman, vice president of marketing at SolarEdge
A quick note: It seems SMA has made a similar announcement claiming to be the first to achieve UL1741 Supplement before SolarEdge. I put out messages to the respective groups and didn’t get an answer. So if someone has sharper insight on the differences or can fully state that SMA was first, let us know in the comments please.
Hawaiian Electric Co.’s decision to actively access roughly 4,000 customer solar systems managed by microinverters from manufacturer Enphase Energy is a real world experiment using technologies and ideas very much like UL1741 hopes to implement. That collaboration — between solar panel level electronics and the centrally managed grid operators — opens a pathway for the discovery of potential hotspots for grid instability (and much more further along).
While solar technology is still only a small part of the electric grids total production — approaching ~2% by the end of 2016 for the whole of the USA — the available data from these experiments translates to a future where big data and electricity flows from the distributed systems at the edge of the grid to the central transmission and distribution operators. With regulatory reforms coming out of Hawaii, California and New York — where customer-owned distributed energy and storage resources are emerging quickly as a byproduct of renewable energy mandates — expect these ‘draft’ UL requirements to become industry standards.