NREL, SolarCity join for expansion study of solar power on grids

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The US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and SolarCity have reached on a cooperative research agreement to tackle operational issues regarding distributed solar energy on electrical grids.

They will cooperate with Hawaiian Electric Companies to investigate the high penetration solar situations using modeling and inverter testing at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF).

Energy Department solar cost-share program will partly fund for the project.

The ESIF on NREL’s Colorado campus conducts research on megawatt-scale power hardware-in-the-loop testing helping to study the performance of distributed electricity generation devices connected to a testing system that outdoes the characteristics of a power system.

SolarCity and Hawaiian Electric testing procedure at ESIF will be on the dynamics between inverter-based assets on a grid system, voltage regulation, and bi-directional power flows.


SolarCity and Hawaiian Electric scientists were at NREL in September to initiate the research.

NREL has completed load rejection over voltage (LRO) testing and will be undertaking ground fault overvoltage testing soon, helping Hawaiian Electric to accept photovoltaic placements to those who need interconnection on high penetration solar circuits.

This capability will be used to help utilities evaluate the impact of distributed energy resources like solar technologies on distribution systems and help them find solutions to utilizing these technologies in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner at scale, commented, Martha Symko-Davies, director, partnership, energy systems integration, NREL.

Moreover, NREL will check SolarCity’s PV generation control hardware and software depending on its need for PV power restriction, or the use of minimum solar power than available during a specific time, through a remote signal.

Hawaiian Electric will partner with NREL and SolarCity to provide technical input on testing and setup, as well feedback on results.

Solving these issues takes everyone-utilities, the solar industry and other leading technical experts like NREL-working together. That’s what this work is all about. With the highest amount of solar in the nation, these utilities are facing potential reliability and safety issues before anywhere else, said, Colton Ching, VP, energy delivery, Hawaiian Electric.

The research was supported by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Grid Integration Initiative and tunding was equally shared between Solar City and the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative.

Sabeena Wahid
[email protected]

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