Arizona’s power utility APS is the first in the US to use new advanced inverters to help manage the growing number of rooftop solar installations across its grid.
APS has begun a trial with a group of its power customers to study the ways in which the existing power plants and the “virtual” power plants of distributed energy sources throughout its footprint can better interact and support one another.
APS launched its solar partner program (SPP) in early 2015. APS installed rooftop solar panels in 1,500 residences, at no cost to its customers. it also installed advanced inverters alongside these customers’ solar panels that gather data about energy generation from the panels. APS claims to be the first utility company in the US to deploy this type of future-facing technology, which will enable the company to essentially operate the solar panels as a virtual power plant, “ramping up or curtailing power based on customers’ real-time energy needs,” APS said.
“The small power plants found on customer rooftops across the state present interesting challenges to service quality and reliability, and advanced inverters are a technology APS believes can help avoid service disruptions and power quality issues,” the company said.
The inverters are used to convert electricity generated from the solar panels from DC to AC. The inverters will enable APS to manage the amount of energy flowing into the grid in neighborhoods with distributed solar resources, as part of its SPP.
“This power quality regulation is no different than what the utility does 24/7/365,” APS said. “However, with the explosion of distributed energy installations across the state, managing the energy flow on the grid – to ensure customers continue to receive safe, reliable electricity – has become a greater challenge, with mini-power plants appearing on rooftops all over Arizona.”