Solar Eclipse: Can European Grids Pass the Flexibility and Resilience Test?
20 Mar 2015
By: Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Pritil Gunjam
The solar eclipse - which will happen today - is raising questions of grid reliability and flexibility in the European power generation market. Grid instability due to the large amount of variable solar power on the grids will drive industry experts to rethink the importance of a flexible and resilient grid infrastructure.
The solar eclipse is likely to cover 85% of the sun; this will translate to 34-35GW of solar power to fall off the European grid (equivalent to 80 conventional power plants). However, this impact will vary across countries depending on the installed base of solar power generation. Countries with high penetration of solar generation such as Germany, Italy and Spain will have a more pronounced impact as compared to the United Kingdom where solar capacity accounts for 2% of the installed base.
While transmission system and grid operators are confident that the European grid infrastructure will pass the test of resilience and flexibility and that any outages should be averted this time, such incidents create a level of uncertainty that needs to be managed in order to strengthen the security of power supply. Dealing with events like this one requires investment in various storage tools and monitoring techniques which can create a certain amount of flexibility in the energy system. The intermittency and unpredictability of renewable technologies have already led power suppliers to invest in smart grid solutions.
According to a recent study by Frost & Sullivan, solar power growth will outpace most other forms of renewable energy production. Solar PV’s share of total power generation capacity is forecast to increase dramatically between 2012 and 2020, to 5.9% of world power capacity. This global share covers wide variations among regions; solar PV’s share in the EU capacity mix is forecast to be 12.4%, while remaining below 3% in regions such as the Middle East and Africa.
The European Union has 94GW of installed solar capacity which is projected to grow at a CAGR of 11% to reach 144GW by 2020. The investment in a European flexible grid infrastructure will increase substantially to 2020; this will incentivise consumers to actively participate in power generation. Utilities in the distributed generation market will actively sort out regulatory and market complexities to draw on maximum benefits offered by a flexible electricity grid. Beyond 2020, investment in cost allocations and tariff structures will be key to preventing disruptions to supply in the future.