Flexible solar can have significant grid benefits, study

A new study conducted by Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3) and sponsored by First Solar, Inc. shows »that operating solar flexibly – dispatching on a sub-hourly basis and providing essential grid reliability services – provides significant additional value compared to conventional operating modes in which all solar available output must be delivered to the grid.« Simulating utility-scale solar deployment levels up to 28 percent annual solar energy penetration, the E3 analysis calculates operating cost savings of adding solar generation to the electricity system under four different solar operating modes representing different levels of flexible grid response. The study finds that operating solar flexibly provides significant additional value compared to other operating modes. This means incorporating solar resources into the utility’s real-time dispatch decisions as well as relying on solar energy to provide essential grid reliability services. The increased value stems from expected reduced fuel and maintenance costs for conventional generators, reduced curtailment of solar output, and reduced air emissions. It grows as the level of solar penetration increases.
The study »Investigating the Economic Value of Flexible Solar Power Plant Operation« (55 pages) is free of charge available as PDF at the website »www.ethree.com« (search terms »flexible solar«).

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