The Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research that advances the reliable, resilient, secure, and affordable integration of solar energy onto the U.S. electric grid through its systems integration subprogram. The systems integration subprogram collaborates with other program offices as part of the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative crosscutting research efforts to ensure our country’s grid is capable of introducing much more solar generation.
In recent years, solar generation has grown from less than 0.1% of the U.S. electricity supply to nearly 2% on an annual basis. In some states and regions, solar represents up to 15% of total annual electricity generation. This rapid solar expansion is occurring on an electric grid that was designed more than 100 years ago to rely upon large, centralized power plants and typically one-way power flows. Recent technology advances present new opportunities for holistic solar grid integration solutions that provide solar dispatchability and grid-support functions that can dynamically optimize grid operations and resource planning, rapidly detect and mitigate disturbances, integrate diverse generation sources, provide strong protection against physical and cyber risks, and supply critical power during system-wide outages.
The systems integration subprogram focuses on five research areas to enable seamless integration of solar energy onto a modernized electric grid:
- Planning and Operation – Understanding the impacts of increasing penetration of solar energy on grid reliability and power quality and addressing the variability of solar generation and two-way power flows.
- Solar + X – Developing best practices for interconnecting and integrating solar with energy storage and synergistic distributed energy resource technologies to achieve higher asset and utilization and value.
- Power Electronics – Researching power electronic technologies such as smart photovoltaic inverters for flexible power flow control.
- Sensing and Communication – Enhancing situational awareness of solar generation at the grid edge using advanced information, communication, and data analytic technologies.
- Codes and Standards – Informing the standardization of interconnection, interoperability, and cybersecurity for photovoltaics and other distributed energy resource systems.
Through competitive funding solicitations, the systems integration subprogram supports research, development, testing, validation, and analysis to address the broad technical challenges to solar grid integration and to ensure system reliability, resilience, security, and affordability.