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At a time when some utilities seem to be doing all that they can to curtail the growth of solar, it was encouraging to see a news item today highlighting a partnership between the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and California-based Stem which provides energy monitoring and management solutions. Together, they are embarking on a two-year research project to “study the impact of high penetration solar photovoltaics (PV) on the grid.”
Stem’s technology monitors a building’s energy consumption and uses storage to shift demand from peak to off-peak periods - the exact sort of technology that we have asserted in the past will be necessary to allow solar to silence its critics. Now, it is working with SMUD to develop the data to achieve that end.
From the Press Release:
During the first phase of the project, Stem and SMUD will work with residential and commercial customer volunteers from a solar-powered community to install Stem’s PowerMonitor data collection and analysis solution, examining the impact of a high penetration of PV on distribution circuit power quality. The data collected by Stem will inform SMUD of the amount of PV that can be added to a distribution feeder while maintaining grid stability and power quality. These results will answer key questions including the effects of the second-by-second ramp rates of PV on SMUD’s system, and how distributed storage can be used to mitigate these effects.
“We’re looking forward to exploring the potential for the greater integration of solar energy into Sacramento’s electric distribution system,” said Mark Rawson from SMUD. “Stem’s technology will enable us to both gather information and test solutions to possibly enable more clean energy in our community.”
Potential follow-on work may include SMUD deploying Stem’s distributed storage systems to test the potential for automatic, fast-responding distributed storage to improve power quality for customers on circuits with a high penetration of PV.
Frankly, we need to see a lot more of this sort of collaboration between technology companies and utilities and it is not at all surprising to see a Muni leading the way. We will be following this closely over the next two years to see how their research plays out.