Implications of Wide-Area Geographic Diversity for Short- Term Variability of Solar Power

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Worldwide interest in the deployment of photovoltaic generation (PV) is rapidly increasing. Operating experience with large PV plants, however, demonstrates that large, rapid changes in the output of PV plants are possible. Early studies of PV grid impacts suggested that short-term variability could be a potential limiting factor in deploying PV. Many of these early studies, however, lacked high-quality data from multiple sites to assess the costs and impacts of increasing PV penetration. As is well known for wind, accounting for the potential for geographic diversity can significantly reduce the magnitude of extreme changes in aggregated PV output, the resources ... continued below

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Mills, Andrew & Wiser, Ryan August 23, 2010.

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Worldwide interest in the deployment of photovoltaic generation (PV) is rapidly increasing. Operating experience with large PV plants, however, demonstrates that large, rapid changes in the output of PV plants are possible. Early studies of PV grid impacts suggested that short-term variability could be a potential limiting factor in deploying PV. Many of these early studies, however, lacked high-quality data from multiple sites to assess the costs and impacts of increasing PV penetration. As is well known for wind, accounting for the potential for geographic diversity can significantly reduce the magnitude of extreme changes in aggregated PV output, the resources required to accommodate that variability, and the potential costs of managing variability. We use measured 1-min solar insolation for 23 time-synchronized sites in the Southern Great Plains network of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program and wind speed data from 10 sites in the same network to characterize the variability of PV with different degrees of geographic diversity and to compare the variability of PV to the variability of similarly sited wind. The relative aggregate variability of PV plants sited in a dense 10 x 10 array with 20 km spacing is six times less than the variability of a single site for variability on time scales less than 15-min. We find in our analysis of wind and PV plants similarly sited in a 5 x 5 grid with 50 km spacing that the variability of PV is only slightly more than the variability of wind on time scales of 5-15 min. Over shorter and longer time scales the level of variability is nearly identical. Finally, we use a simple approximation method to estimate the cost of carrying additional reserves to manage sub-hourly variability. We conclude that the costs of managing the short-term variability of PV are dramatically reduced by geographic diversity and are not substantially different from the costs for managing the short-term variability of similarly sited wind in this region.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-3884E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/986925 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 986925
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1013167

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • August 23, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 14, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

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  • Oct. 17, 2017, 6:21 p.m.

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Mills, Andrew & Wiser, Ryan. Implications of Wide-Area Geographic Diversity for Short- Term Variability of Solar Power, report, August 23, 2010; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1013167/: accessed April 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.