Trial in Solar Farms holds positive charge
Published: 29 Nov 2019

National Grid implemented a new system in East Sussex, that they believe will soon play a vital role in the energy system through the entire 24 hours of the day - a solar farm. 

It has been used in practice to balance the grid even at night, by smoothing overnight voltage fluctuations, for the first time earlier in November. This has proved that solar farms do not necessarily require sunshine in order to help keep the lights on. The owner of the solar farm, Lightsource BP, said that an inexpensive change to the project's electrical equipment meant that it could properly help to balance the grid with as little as two seconds notice. Commenting on the innovation, Kareen Boutonnat, the company's chief operating officer, said, "we have proven that solar plants can play a larger role across the electricity network. But this is only the beginning".

This innovation could mean that UK solar farms are to soon be mobilised, in order to help stabilise the energy grid at night. This could save near to £400 million on either grid upgrades or building new power plants. This works using an item called an "Inverter", often used in the process of converting solar energy into electrical current, but here can instead be used at night when the grid is less stable, to adapt grid electricity into a more manageable and healthy voltage. It acts like a distortion mirror, in that it reflects the energy network's voltage back to the grid, but in a slightly different level.

When there is plenty of wind power, but little demand for it, these solar farms are crucial to preventing the energy grid's voltage from rising too high. Alternatively it can also stop the voltage from dropping too low during still nights through the winter when the demand for electricity is too high. 

A second trial is due to be carried out next month by Lightsource BP. Looking further, they hope to help balance the electricity grid by striking their first commercial deal with National Grid next year.