First Solar Receives Outstanding Project Award at InterSolar EU

In the award citation, the Smarter E review jury called the study “proof of concept… a game-changer for large-scale solar plants” that demonstrated how “solar power plants can not only reduce the need for carbon-emitting resources, but can also improve system performance and operate with significantly higher levels of variable generation.”

First Solar has received the inaugural Smarter E Award for an Outstanding Project, presented last week at the InterSolar EU conference in Munich. The award recognized a ground-breaking test conducted jointly by First Solar, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and grid operator California ISO on a 300MW utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plant in California to demonstrate its ability to provide highly responsive services essential for maintaining reliability of the grid.

“The results of this project can be used as a door opener to convince stakeholders that utility-scale solar can contribute to the reliability and stability of the grid and provide essential grid services that are today often associated with conventional generation,” the citation concluded.

“This award is for all of us in the solar industry,” said Mahesh Morjaria, First Solar’s Vice President of Systems Development, in accepting the award. “The study proves that more solar can be integrated into the grid, enabling even further growth in the PV industry.”

First Solar, CAISO and NREL carried out tests that successfully demonstrated that utility-scale solar PV resources can be relied upon to provide essential reliability services. The tests, which were conducted on a newly built 300 MW solar PV plant, demonstrated the role of advanced power controls in leveraging solar PV’s value from simply an intermittent energy resource to providing services, including spinning reserves, load following, voltage support, ramping, frequency response, variability smoothing, frequency regulation, and improved power quality.

“The project team carried out a pioneering demonstration concept to show how various types of active and reactive power controls can leverage PV generation’s value from being a simple variable energy resource to a resource that provides a wide range of essential reliability services,” said Vahan Gevorgian, chief engineer in NREL’s Integrated Devices and Systems group and principal investigator with the project.

The tests demonstrated that solar plants can react rapidly to grid signals regarding frequency regulation, and more accurately than conventional generation such as thermal, hydro or gas turbines – and can be tightly regulated.

Criteria for the Outstanding Project 2018 Award included demonstration that the nominated project was exemplary for global future applications and was unique in its realization. Heavy emphasis was placed on innovation and a pioneering spirit in the exploration of renewable energy applications. The Smarter E Awards program was introduced at the 2018 InterSolar EU conference as a way to recognize groundbreaking work in the energy transition towards a low carbon future.