Utility Group Urges Smart Inverters For All New Solar


The San Diego-based Western Electric Industry Leaders (WEIL) group is urging the installation of ‘smart inverters’ on all new solar generators in the region to ensure their smooth integration into the electric grid.

The group, comprising utility companies, government agencies and electricity producers and power providers throughout the western U.S., says the technology is vital for enabling solar installations to provide the necessary voltage support due to the intermittent nature of their function as electricity generators, which can cause power quality and reliability problems.Â

WEIL has released a report detailing the immediate need for smart inverters and a letter urging all relevant state public service commissions and/or legislatures to support the measure. WEIL cites its members' requirements to integrate large amounts of renewable energy into the interconnected electric system in a reliable, cost-effective manner.

‘As more and more solar generators are placed on the regional electric grid, we need to work together to smoothly bring these clean resources onto our system by fitting them with smart inverters to counter the voltage fluctuations that occur with these intermittent renewable resources,’ says Mike Niggli, president and chief operating officer of San Diego Gas and Electric in a statement. ‘This will ensure the integrity, safety and reliability of our system and enable the continued adoption of more clean, environmentally-beneficial solar power for our communities.’

According to WEIL, smart inverters are a low-cost way to mitigate the voltage changes caused by the fluctuating solar generation, thus preventing potential power quality problems. Without smart inverters, the group says, voltage swings can potentially damage utility equipment and residents' home appliances; increase overall cost of maintaining the grid; require installation of larger, more expensive alternatives; and could even contribute to distributed outages.

WEIL says the power fluctuation issue has already caused the government of Germany to order a mass retrofit of smart inverters on solar installations at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

To read the full WEIL letter, click here.

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