Solar Grid Connected
A grid-connected photovoltaic power system or grid-connected PV power system is an electricity generating solar PV power system that is connected to the utility grid. A grid-connected PV system consists of solar panels, one or several inverters, a power conditioning unit and grid connection equipment. They range from small residential and commercial rooftop systems to large utility-scale solar power stations. Unlike stand-alone power systems, a grid-connected system rarely includes an integrated battery solution, as they are still very expensive. When conditions are right, the grid-connected PV system supplies the excess power, beyond consumption by the connected load, to the utility grid.
Residential, grid-connected rooftop systems which have a capacity less than 10 kilowatts can meet the load of most consumers. They can feed excess power to the grid where it is consumed by other users. The feedback is done through a meter to monitor power transferred. Photovoltaic wattage may be less than average consumption, in which case the consumer will continue to purchase grid energy, but a lesser amount than previously. If photovoltaic wattage substantially exceeds average consumption, the energy produced by the panels will be much in excess of the demand. In this case, the excess power can yield revenue by selling it to the grid. Depending on their agreement with their local grid energy company, the consumer only needs to pay the cost of electricity consumed less the value of electricity generated. This will be a negative number if more electricity is generated than consumed. Additionally, in some cases, cash incentives are paid from the grid operator to the consumer.
Connection of the photovoltaic power system can be done only through an interconnection agreement between the consumer and the utility company. The agreement details the various safety standards to be followed during the connection.
Solar energy gathered by photovoltaic solar panels, intended for delivery to a power grid, must be conditioned, or processed for use, by a grid-connected inverter. Fundamentally, an inverter changes the DC input voltage from the PV to AC voltage for the grid. This inverter sits between the solar array and the grid, draws energy from each, and may be a large stand-alone unit or may be a collection of small inverters, each physically attached to individual solar panels. The inverter must monitor grid voltage, waveform, and frequency. One reason for monitoring is if the grid is dead or strays too far out of its nominal specifications, the inverter must not pass along any solar energy. An inverter connected to a malfunctioning power line will automatically disconnect in accordance with safety rules, for example UL1741, which vary by jurisdiction. Another reason for the inverter monitoring the grid is because for normal operation the inverter must synchronize with the grid waveform, and produce a voltage slightly higher than the grid itself, in order for energy to smoothly flow outward from the solar array.
- Systems such as Net Metering and Feed-in Tariff which are offered by some system operators, can offset a customer’s electricity usage costs. In some locations though, grid technologies cannot cope with distributed generation feeding into the grid, so the export of surplus electricity is not possible and that surplus is earthed.
- Grid-connected PV systems are comparatively easier to install as they do not require a battery system.
- Grid interconnection of photovoltaic (PV) power generation systems has the advantage of effective utilization of generated power because there are no storage losses involved.
- A photovoltaic power system is carbon negative over its lifespan, as any energy produced over and above that to build the panel initially offsets the need for burning fossil fuels. Even though the sun doesn't always shine, any installation gives a reasonably predictable average reduction in carbon consumption.
- Grid-connected PV can cause issues with voltage regulation. The traditional grid operates under the assumption of one-way, or radial, flow. But electricity injected into the grid increases voltage, and can drive levels outside the acceptable bandwidth of ±5%.
- Grid-connected PV can compromise power quality. PV’s intermittent nature means rapid changes in voltage. This not only wears out voltage regulators due to frequent adjusting, but also can result in voltage flicker.
- Connecting to the grid poses many protection-related challenges. In addition to islanding, too high levels of grid-connected PV result in problems like relay desensitization, nuisance tripping, interference with automatic reclosers, and ferroresonance.