Students from Arizona State University Polytechnic recently partnered with SRP on a solar energy project that is expected to make green energy sources more reliable.
Many people are confused about solar energy, and believe that residential solar power systems are independent and immune to a widespread outage, according to the Arizona Republic. In reality, most solar households are connected to the grid and lose power in a blackout even if the sun is shining.
Rooftop solar systems are known to reduce the amount of natural gas that utilities burn to produce electricity, which is an environmental positive. But having many of them on the power grid results in complications, as utilities have to account for power flowing from houses – not just to them – and this production fluctuates due to factors like cloud cover. Thus, the ASU Polytechnic students are working on the project for SRP, constructing a microgrid to make it more dependable as an increasing number of homes install solar power and alternative energy sources.
“There have been so many technological changes with (solar) and other energy sources, the microgrid can simulate what type of impact it would have when different energy sources drop off or are added,” said Freddie Dobbins Jr., an SRP engineer who helped with the project. “We have to look, as the (electrical) loads become more concentrated, especially with solar, when the sun passes over, we have a cycling effect. Different solar units are dropping in and out. It could have an impact on how we distribute loads.”
The project is expected to help SRP and other utilities predict how they can manage the fluctuating power from high concentrations of rooftop solar systems and other sources of distributed energy, the newspaper stated. Thousands of residents of Arizona have added solar power to homes, but since the concentrations are not high, experts have not had to explore different options in distributing loads on the grid.
“We can use it for teaching students power engineering so they understand the principles of converting direct current (from renewable-power systems) to alternating current,” said Scott Pollat, senior lecturer at the university. “We can simulate time-of-use (billing that charges more for power during high-demand hours). We can do all of those things.”
The Town of Prescott Valley, Arizona, recently announced the completion of two major solar projects that are expected to provide a significant amount of energy. The installations are located at the town’s water pump stations and wastewater treatment plant.