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Grids Ready for Solar

Jul 25, 2008 - RenewableEnergyFocus.com

FREIBURG, GERMANY - Two reports compiled by Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE show how municipal electricity grids can accept large amounts of photovoltaic (PV) electricity.

The reports were created as part of the European research project PV-UPSCALE. In addition, a working group of ten institutes from seven countries developed a comprehensive online-portal for the integration of PV systems in urban settlements and buildings, including a database with exemplary systems, which can be found at the project homepage.

"The existing municipal electricity grids can also accept greatly expanding amounts of solar electricity," says Hermann Laukamp from Fraunhofer ISE, project leader for the working group 'Grid issues.' "The capacity of the grid for decentralised feed-in can be appreciably increased through non-investment-related measures."

One way of making it possible to connect solar PV to the grid, is through lowering output voltage in district low voltage transformers by 1-2% to allow for the local voltage increases that come with PV systems. According to Fraunhofer, this can be done without investments, as service technicians can do this during their routine maintenance rounds.

One working group investigated PV with respect to urban planning aspects, while another group concentrated on the economic aspects.

Fraunhofer points out, however, that "in rural areas, there is still need for investigations."

German example

When comparing different countries, the researchers found that the German energy industry is more active and flexible with regard to solar electricity than many of their European colleagues.

"Often strict regulations and bureaucracy stand in the way. In Germany, photovoltaics already belong to the standard repertoire of the energy industry," says Laukamp.

One example is Britain, which has come under criticism for proposed amendments to an EU Directive which says renewable energy sources should get priority connections to the grid.

Reports and database

Detailed information on the project can be found in the reports 'Recommendations for utilities on PV system interconnection' and 'Impact of photovoltaic generation on power quality in high PV density real estate areas' on the PV-UPSCALE website.

In addition to grid connection, a data bank documenting attractive examples of building integrated PV systems (with photos) has been compiled, which includes information from the countries participating in the project, as well as other countries in the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Contributors

The PV-UPSCALE project, which was completed after 2.5 years in June, was sponsored by the Intelligent Energy Europe Programme of the European Union. German contributors were Fraunhofer ISE, Ecofys and MVV Energie AG, plus project partners from Holland, Austria, France, Spain and Britain.