NYISO solar study announced

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Solar power is booming in the U.S. -- but how will growth in solar photovoltaic generating capacity affect the electricity grid?  The operator of the state of New York's electric grid has announced a study of the potential for growth in solar power resources to determine their impact on grid operations over the next 15 years.

Solar panels recently developed in a farm field in Massachusetts.
The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) operates New York State's high-voltage transmission network, runs the state's wholesale electricity markets.  NYISO also evaluates trends in utility infrastructure development and usage, and what changes in these patterns imply for future infrastructure needs.

One such trend is the recent rapid growth in installed solar electric generating capacity.  In New York, a state government initiative known as NY-Sun aims to reduce solar installation costs by stimulating demand and increasing the number of solar PV systems installed in the state.  The NY-Sun program envisions the installation of more than 3,000 megawatts of customer-sited solar capacity by 2023, supported by about $150 million in annual state funding for solar PV projects.  Already, in the first two years of NY-Sun, a total of 316 megawatts of solar electric has been installed or is under contract.

Unlike standalone utility-scale solar development, the solar buildout directly triggered by the NY-Sun program will occur “behind the meter” — that is, on the customer's side of the utility meter, as opposed to a typical power plant sited remotely from customer load.  Nevertheless, increased consumption of power produced by distributed generation might affect NYISO's load forecasts or grid operations.  So too might the collective impacts of many generators with variable but correlated output.

To prepare for this future, NYISO has announced a "solar study" to evaluate the growing impact of sun-powered generation.  The study will focus on the following objectives:
  • Developing solar forecasting tools and preparing 15-year forecasts of solar PV capacity for each of the 11 load zones in New York State
  • Researching how other independent system operators and regional transmission organizations have integrated solar resources into their grids
  • Evaluating solar generation variability and its impact on customer load served by the NYS electric systems.
  • Reviewing operational impacts of various levels of solar and wind resources.

The results of NYISO's solar study are expected to be released in a report later this year.

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