When it comes to electricity, you may have heard that the whole energy industry is using the word "resilience". In the energy department, this means that the power system has the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and recover quickly from outages.
Solar energy can play an important role in improving the elasticity of the national grid. Distributed solar energy systems, such as roof and community solar energy, can improve the overall flexibility of the grid and the communities it serves, rather than one main generator providing power for a large area.
Power comes from a variety of sources—fossil-based generators fueled by coal or natural gas have been standard for the last century. Now, solar energy offers an affordable, low-cost electricity source well suited for a 21st century clean energy economy.
To enable solar to provide resilience, grid operators need tools like battery storage, demand management, and load shifting to ensure reliable power. The tricky part is understanding when to use those tools. That requires real-time knowledge of how much energy solar resources are producing at that moment, as well as how much energy they will produce in the future, known as forecasting. It will help commercialize tools that will aid in predicting solar generation, and has also been investing in tools and models that continue to improve communications between solar generation facilities and grid operators so they have the accurate and timely information to do their jobs effectively.
Focus on Communities
New research is expanding the definition of resilience to include the communities served by electric grid. Increasing the amount of solar energy on the grid and ensuring its affordability increases community resilience by helping to relieve energy burdens and provide clean, reliable, local electricity. Electricity powers vital services that are integrated into virtually every corner of our economy and communities: lighting at night for safety, communication services for emergency responders, refrigerated food and medication storage, and clean water and sewage disposal. All of these actions can be achieved by solar panels.
As the number of grid connected solar energy continues to grow, flexibility at the grid and community levels remains an important priority. New and innovative community energy planning methods and new clean energy technologies will be developed to mitigate the impact of power outages on basic services and improve the ability to withstand extreme weather events and recover quickly.