Study: PV expansion won’t affect Germany’s power grids

Conducted by consultancy company Roland Berger, operators of distribution networks in “so-called” PV high-density areas were questioned. “Even operators of power grids with a very high amount of PV power and strong growth rates envision, on the whole, no fundamental problems for their networks,” stated Günther Cramer, president of the German Solar Industry Association, BSW.

He added: “There is no reason whatsoever to fear any restriction of the electricity supply, much less a ‘network collapse,’ due to the feed-in of solar power.”

BSW continued by saying that PV generation is the decentralized power among renewable energy sources. It explained that solar power not only creates a significantly higher number of players in the electricity market, thereby reducing one-sided market distribution, but it is also generated close to the consumer and during times of high electricity demand.

Furthermore, the association said that the feed-in of PV electricity is both decentralized and takes places almost exclusively on the distribution network level, while its consumption also occurs regionally. Since solar power does not have to be transported great distances over land, it continued, to a certain extent it even relieves the major transmission grids at the high-voltage level.

It explained that, thus far, there has been some need to bolster the distribution networks in only a few rural areas, where a relatively high amount of electricity is generated from solar and wind power, while a relatively low amount is removed directly from the grid locally.

In the future as well, it said that an impact on distribution networks is only to be expected for rural areas, if at all. “Power grids in densely populated areas, with their more closely-knit structure and high levels of regional energy demand, “ said the association, “have a very high absorption capacity and are predestined for decentralized feed-in through PV systems.”

In order to keep the inevitable investments in rural distribution networks as low as possible, BSW says the PV industry is working “intensively” on technical innovations that will “significantly” minimize the costs of distribution network expansion – “which will only be necessary in very few places anyway”.

It said that within a few weeks, for example, inverters capable of reactive power control will be introduced on the market; these inverters will reportedly “significantly” increase the absorption capacity of power grids and, for the most part, be able to replace conventional network expansion measures.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Braun of IWES Fraunhofer Institute in Kassel confirms the potential of the new inverter generation: “Our network calculations show that the PV absorption capacity of low-voltage networks can be significantly increased, in some cases even more than doubled, by providing reactive power.”