Large-scale solar energy is growing throughout the United States, particularly in New England. However, New England’s solar market has reached high penetration levels. While that’s good news because it means our region is adopting renewable energy practices, it also means that we have to figure out how to handle having so many utility-scale solar energy farms in one area. What do we do with so many solar panel farms generating so much power? The answer may lie in combining solar and wind farms so they offset each other.
While adopting renewable energy models improves our environment and reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, it’s not a perfect solution. Often, when many solar farms or wind farms or other forms of renewable energy penetrate a given market, that market ends up with more energy than it can handle. This means that the price value of that particular form of renewable energy, whether it’s solar, hydro, or wind, will decrease. For example, California enacted a power curtailment in 2017 to avoid negative power pricing. This negative pricing was caused by a large rise in the use of hydro and solar power around the state, which left utility companies with excess power. Around that time, they also had to stop their power trade with the Pacific Northwest, which faced a hydro power surplus after they had an exceptionally wet winter. As solar power penetrated California’s energy market, the state had to figure out what to do about all the excess power.
What does that have to do with New England? While we don’t have as much solar power as California yet, we do currently have about 3,400 watts of solar power installed across our region, and this already affects power consumption. For instance, New England’s electric grid has experienced the “duck curve” phenomenon many times since April 2018. The duck curve occurs when consumption from the electric grid drops dramatically in the middle of the day. That kind of sharp energy consumption drop-off usually occurs in the middle of the day, but it often happens at midday on sunny days when homes and businesses use their solar arrays to generate electric power. While this isn’t causing major problems at the moment, New England isn’t extremely sunny all year long. We need to develop renewable energy solutions that power homes and businesses during other weather conditions.
One way to balance solar projects in a solar market with high penetration is to start installing other types of renewable energy projects in that market. You can also install solar projects in places with other types of high renewable energy penetration to offset that energy type’s decreased value and provide renewable energy when that market’s traditional type of renewable energy isn’t available due to seasonal weather conditions.
For example, Texas’s renewable energy market has experienced a high penetration of wind farm technology in recent years because it often experiences windy weather. However, Texas can benefit from solar system installation because its summers are generally hot and humid, with very little wind. Solar panel farms could generate electricity during that hot, sunny summer weather, while wind farms could generate power during windy conditions. This way, Texas’s renewable energy market can adapt to changing weather conditions throughout the year.
Similarly, we can offset the growing amount of solar energy farms in New England with wind farms. This strategy allows us to generate renewable energy in a landscape where the weather changes dramatically throughout the year. It also helps us stabilize the value of both energy types so prices and values don’t experience large fluctuations.
While adopting renewable energy models improves our environment and reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, it’s not a perfect solution. Often, when many solar farms or wind farms or other forms of renewable energy penetrate a given market, that market ends up with more energy than it can handle.
Whether you want to launch a utility-scale solar project in a wind-dominated market or manage solar energy farm costs in New England, Verogy can help you do all that and more. As experienced solar developers and installers, we give you the knowledge and resources to turn your acres of land into clean energy. We also provide financing options, including power purchase agreements (PPA) as well as direct ownership. Though we’re based in New England, we operate as nationwide solar installers, so reach out to us today to bring our solar solutions to your market.