First Solar Offers First-of-its-kind Grid Balancing Services With a 141 MW Solar Project

First Solar, a U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer, announced that its 141 MW Luz del Norte solar photovoltaic (PV) project in Chile secured a license to supply ancillary grid services on a commercial basis.

First Solar said that its Luz del Norte PV project has become the first utility-scale solar project in the world to supply automatic generation control (AGC) and other grid services to Coordinador Eléctrico Nacional, a Chile-based independent system operator (ISO).

Grid operators across the world depend on hydropower or thermal power projects to manage changes in load, though it cannot provide fully carbon-free energy. However, utility-scale solar projects can provide clean energy as well as carbon-free grid services.

The facility, located in Copiapó, Chile, is now being used by the ISO to manage the frequency of the country’s electricity system, helping ensure the grid’s reliability and stability, in addition to generating clean, renewable energy.

“This achievement increases the spectrum of technologies capable of providing the services needed to maintain a safe and reliable operation of the electric system,” said Carlos Barria, Head of the Forecast and Regulatory Analysis, and Environment and Climate Change at Ministry of Energy, Chile.

“These demonstrated capabilities are in line with our plans in integrating higher levels of renewable energy in our grid, which will enable us to achieve our goal to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2040 and to be carbon neutral by 2020,” Barria added.

Commissioned in 2016, Luz del Norte is one of the largest PV projects in Chile. The facility generates enough electricity to power 50,000 average Chilean homes.

Thermal-based sources can be used to generate power on demand. By combining a conventional source of energy with non-conventional sources, it would be possible to minimize or even negate the effects of intermittency in power generation. So far, one of the only ways to use renewable energy without intermittency issues is with energy storage solutions, which require a large amount of capital expenditure on batteries.

This is why, in India, the idea of round-the-clock renewable power bundled with thermal energy is gaining traction.