NORTH AMERICA currently has tens of gigawatts of installed utility-scale PV generation with many more gigawatts under construction. Utility-scale solar will only reach its fullest financial and energy generating potential with the addition of energy storage, however. The majority of utility-scale PV base could expand energy production and increase revenues with the addition of energy storage. Choosing the right topology is critical to maximizing the impact of coupling energy storage with utility-scale solar installations.
In this post, Dynapower will examine the coupling of energy storage with utility-scale PV by defining and comparing three principle methods: AC-coupled, DC-coupled, and Hybrid solar-plus-storage inverters. We will also consider all possible revenue streams of solar plus storage and their availability based on available systems for coupling storage.
In addition to this overview, Dynapower has detailed papers on each topology as well as proprietary modeling software to determine the optimal topology for utility-scale solar plus storage installations to help installation developers and owners determine which approach will provide the greatest ROI when adding energy storage.
A recent NREL report examined the economics of each topology to determine which approach provided the greatest ROI.
Solar Plus Energy Storage Revenue Streams
The addition of energy storage to an existing or new utility-scale PV installation allows system
owners and operators the opportunity to capture additional revenues only available with the addition of energy storage. They include:
CAPACITY FIRMING — Turn Solar into a Dispatchable asset
For certain time periods during the day the availability of storage gives the system operator the ability to bid firm capacity into merchant markets. That is storage makes PV generation a dispatchable revenue generating asset.
Depending on the available local energy market, this may translate to higher kWh rates for firm capacity during dispatchable periods.
ENERGY TIME SHIFTING — Utilize Generated PV Energy When Its Value is Highest
Energy Storage allows bulk energy shifting of solar generation to take advantage of higher PPA rates in peak periods, or to allow utilities to address daily peak demand that falls outside periods of solar generation.
CLIPPING RECAPTURE — Maximize Value of PV Generated Energy
Given common inverter loading ratios of 1.25:1 up to 1.5:1 on utility-scale PV (PVDC rating: PVAC rating), there is an opportunity for the recapture of clipped energy through the addition of energy storage.
Using a simplified system for illustrative purposes, consider a 14MWDC PV array behind a total inverter capacity of 10MWAC. Depending on your location and type of racking, the total clipped energy can be over 1,000,000 kWh per year.
With storage attached to the array, the batteries can be charged with excess PV output when the PV inverter hits its peak rating and would otherwise begin clipping. This stored energy can then be fed into the grid at the appropriate time.
Without energy storage, these kWhs are lost and revenues stunted.
CURTAILMENT & OUTAGE RECAPTURE — Continuous Uptime and Revenue Generation
When storage is on the DC bus behind the PV inverter, the energy storage system can operate and maintain the DC bus voltage when the PV inverter is off-line for scheduled or unplanned outages. When the PV inverter is offline the energy from the array can still flow to the batteries via the DC-DC converter ensuring energy can be harvested for later use.
The same uptime capabilities apply when a large utility-scale array is curtailed by the ISO or utility. Curtailment is sometimes seen in areas of high solar penetration — such as California — when there is overall excess production on the grid. With a DC-coupled energy storage system, energy production can continue with energy being stored and available for discharge when curtailment ends.
LOW VOLTAGE HARVESTING — Make Money On The Edges
PV inverters typically require a minimum threshold DC bus voltage to operate. On a 1,500VDC nominal system, this ‘wake up’ voltage may be around 500VDC. As a result of this minimum voltage threshold, the available generated energy in the morning and evening when voltage on the array is below the PV inverter ’wake up’ threshold is not captured. Adding energy storage through a DC-to-DC converter allows for the capture of this generated energy from the margins.
This phenomenon also takes place when there is cloud coverage. In both cases, this lost energy could be captured by a DC-coupled energy storage system.
RAMP RATE CONTROL — Modulate Power for Continuous Grid Connection
Ramp rate control is often required by utilities and ISOs for PV and wind systems to mitigate the impact of a sudden injection of power onto the grid or a sudden loss of generation due to the intermittent nature of both generation sources.
A ramp rate of 1MW/minute, for example, has been required by HECO in Hawai’i to limit the rate at which a large array can come up to power or trail off in the event of cloud cover.
A storage system coupled with PV can monitor PV inverter output and inject or consume power to ensure the net output remains within the ramp requirements allowing for continuous energy injection into the grid. Additionally, with this ramp rate control benefit, energy otherwise lost when a PV inverter would self-regulate during a ramp up (by manipulating the I-V curve to curtail power output) can now be stored for later use.
AC-COUPLED SOLAR PLUS STORAGE SYSTEM
In AC-coupled systems, there are two inverters, one for the battery and another for the solar PV system. With this system configuration, the power to the grid can be maximized by discharging both the battery and PV at maximum power. They can be dispatched independently or together.
This configuration does pose integration challenges for microgrid operations. Dynapower offers AC-coupled solar plus storage inverters and fully-integrated systems at both behind the meter and utility-scale levels.
DC-COUPLED SOLAR PLUS STORAGE SYSTEM
Primarily of interest to grid-tied utility-scale solar projects the DC-coupled solution is a relatively new approach for adding energy storage to existing and new construction of utility-scale solar installations.
Distinct advantages here include reduced cost to install energy storage with reduction of needed equipment — one set of inverters, MV switchgear and other balance of plant costs, higher efficiency than both AC and hybrid options, and increased PV energy generation — from clipping recapture and low-voltag
e harvest. DC-coupled solar plus storage allows for increasing the panel to inverter (DC/AC) ratio to much higher levels than solar-only plants. Solar plus storage can be contracted under a single PPA.
HYBRID SOLAR PLUS STORAGE SYSTEM
Hybrid solar plus storage inverters have two DC inputs; one with maximum power point tracking for PV, and the second is bidirectional and intended for use with battery energy storage. This type of system is ideal for microgrids as integration is no longer required between two separate inverters.
At Hopewell Valley Central High School, Dynapower teamed up with PSE&G to deliver a 1 MW project using two of Dynapow
er containerized solar plus storage systems.
This project generates solar energy which is
self-consumed by the school and also features Dynapower’s proprietary backup power capabilities in the event of a grid disturbance.
Dynapower has successfully delivered all three system architectures for our customers in both grid-tied and microgrid applications. When evaluating which of the system architectures is optimal, the options must be compared across a variety of metrics including cost, efficiency, reliability, and flexibility. Dynanpower has created industry-validated tools to model new and existing solar plus storage installations for the optimal system topology and sizing to determine which approach will maximize investment in energy storage.
With over a decade of experience in solar plus energy storage and over 425MWs of inverters/converters deployed worldwide, Dynapower can assist you in selecting the
optimal system for your existing or new PV array.
Director of Energy Storage