Investigating the Impact of Solar Variability on Grid Stability

CAT Projects and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency:  investigating the impact of solar radiation variability on existing electrical grids

CAT Projects and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency:  investigating the impact of solar radiation variability on existing electrical grids

Photovoltaic technology has in recent years become a significant form of power generation on many electricity networks. Electricity utilities who manage these networks have raised concerns regarding the impact of high penetration by photovoltaics into these distribution grids. These concerns generally focus on issues of grid management, and operation and planning, particularly where there is variability in PV system output due to cloud cover. Variability in PV irradiance is often cited as a major impediment to high levels of PV penetration into existing electrical networks.

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This report is the result of a research project undertaken by CAT Projects and ARENA during 2013 and 2014. The project investigated the impacts of solar radiation variability on PV power output in existing electrical grids. The key aim was to develop an improved estimate for the maximum penetration of grid-connected solar generators achievable without energy storage. The research took into account the solar generators’ distribution across the geographical area of the grid based on the hypothesis that the impact of weather variation is mitigated by the distribution of solar generators across the geographical extent of the grid – i.e. clouds passing across the area will not affect all generators simultaneously.


The study aimed to quantify the mitigation of geographical distribution on instantaneous weather effects by comparing the data from an array of pyranometers, anemometers and temperature sensors installed across the extent of the Alice Springs electricity grid.
Research for this project was undertaken in Alice Springs, Northern Territory during 2013 and 2014.