New study finds small-scale renewable energy sources could cause blackouts

Renewable energy feeding the main power grid could destabilize the system and potentially cause blackouts, according to a new study.

Mathematicians at the University of Nottingham used smart meter data to track changes in grid composition over time and found that resilience varies over the course of a day and that high panel usage solar panels can make the grid more susceptible to failure. Their findings were published today in Scientific advances.

National renewable energy production is growing rapidly with just over a million small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the UK. These small-scale renewable generators are low-efficiency and intermittent and often distributed and integrated into power grids in large numbers.

Domestic production is a key element of the integration of renewable energies and includes the “feed-in tariff” which remunerates the producer for the supply of his electricity stored upstream of the network. This electricity supply is unpredictable, with generators turning on and off intermittently and households taking on the role of consumers or producers depending on daily and seasonal use, and weather conditions vary. These fluctuations can put the network at risk of system failure.

Oliver Smith, a researcher at the University of Nottingham led the study, he explains: “The increasing proliferation of small, intermittent renewable energy sources is causing a rapid change in the structure and composition of the electricity network. This is because the actual grid structure can change over the course of a day as consumers and small generators connect and disconnect. Using data from smart meters in UK households, we tracked changes in grid composition over time. We then used a dynamic model to assess the impact of these changes. the resilience of electrical networks to catastrophic failures. We found that resilience varies over the course of a day and that high solar panel consumption can make the grid more susceptible to failure.

The first part of the research investigated the theory of changing the proportion and size of generators by modeling a system using many small-scale generators and in any case showed that the network should be more robust than using a single power source. However, when the actual smart meter data was integrated, the researchers found that the reality of a grid with many small-scale generators running at different times means that the grid does not reach the optimal levels for this resilience is achieved, leaving it susceptible to failures.

The researchers found that the renewable energy stored in household batteries is only used to minimize household electricity costs and does little to minimize the risk of grid outages.

They recommend that the power supply to these batteries be programmed to also optimize the resilience of the power grid.

Oliver continues: “The main problem is the fluctuating supply of small-scale renewable energy. A cost-effective way to overcome this problem would be to intelligently schedule the release of stored photovoltaic energy from home batteries at specific times. provide much greater control and reduce the risk of system failure. »

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Materials provided by University of Nottingham. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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