One of the most urgent challenges in the current U.S. energy system involves improving and strengthening the power grid. Originally built to last 50 years, major parts of this vast system are now close to 100 years old, making age- and weather-related outages increasingly common.
Fortunately, utility-scale solar offers many ways to help improve the durability and reliability of the country’s energy grid. In fact, as we describe below, in some instances utility solar is already contributing greatly to grid upgrades and modernization.
Let’s take a look at three key ways utility-scale solar can strengthen the grid and build a renewable energy economy.
The chances of power failures and grid uncertainty arising from extreme weather conditions continues to rise. These weather events can potentially wreak major havoc on the grid. Hurricane Ida’s summer 2021 landfall left 1.2 million electricity customers across eight states without power, while the blackouts across Texas caused the 2021 winter storm left between 2 and 3 million people without power.
To mitigate against extreme weather, solar panels are tested against extreme weather conditions to ensure they remain functioning and reliable. For example, Trina Solar’s high-powered Vertex modules were just subjected to five rigorous tests, including uniform snow load, extreme low-temperature mechanical load, hail and extreme wind tunnel. The results achieved an across-the-board verification of mechanical load reliability much greater than International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards.
These modules ensure the safety and reliability of a PV system even in severe weather conditions, and deliver electricity especially in times when it’s needed most.
Utility-scale PV installations require a sizable amount of land in order to harvest enough sunlight to make the project valuable. At the same time, many post-industrial sites are brownfields and remain vacant due to the risk of contamination.
To solve this problem, developers are increasingly turning to post-industrial sites to repurpose as PV installations. As of 2020, developers have built more than 417 renewable energy installations (both solar and wind) on formerly contaminated lands in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Meanwhile, the EPA is currently screening more than 44 million post-industrial acres to judge these sites’ viability for renewable energy installations.
Many of these old landfills, empty coal mines, former phosphate projects and other vacant sites make ideal spots for utility-scale solar installations. These sites are typically located near existing transmission infrastructure and the land is not considered wild, arable or needed for city planning purposes. At the same time, these locations also tend to be close to populated areas, meaning they can provide immediate benefits to the local residents.
While solar will be crucial to improving the grid moving forward, utility installations are already doing much of the heavy lifting. The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) released a report detailing how new utility-scale solar installations have been funding major transmission upgrades to the grid.
The study evaluated two regions: the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and Southwest Power Pool (SPP). MISO requires that new generators pay 90 percent of the cost of significant interconnection upgrades with other users paying 10 percent, and SPP requires new generators to pay the entire cost. The report’s authors discovered that in two-thirds of the utility solar upgrades they assessed, the entire system received economic benefits from the PV installations. This means that while other users of the shared system benefited, they did so at little or no cost.
As developers and EPCs rise to the task of installing the utility-scale PV solutions necessary for the renewable energy revolution, they’ll need a smart solar solution to lower levelized cost of energy and boost system value.
TrinaPro does just that. As an all-in-one smart solar solution, TrinaPro helps EPCs and developers streamline procurement, optimize interconnection and keep projects on budget and on time. Coupled with the high-power and high-efficiency Vertex modules, TrinaPro delivers the power and value needed to build the renewable energy economy.
Want to learn more about how TrinaPro can help lower LCOE and boost project value of utility-scale solar projects? Reach out to the experts at Trina Solar today!
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