Peak demand and solar power

Millie HennickAugust 1, 2018 824 0

Solar energy can help the environment today

Solar power is playing a large role in today’s electrical grid. This is especially true in states where solar power proliferates. Record summer heat in dry states like California and Arizona strained the electric power grid, testing its ability to process extreme temperatures and the rising use of solar power across the Southwest. There are now more rooftop solar panels in use during extreme heat waves, which is forcing electric utilities to ask residents to conserve energy later into the evening to prevent blackouts. Electricity use from the power grid changes to later in the evening when the sun’s energy subsides.

Peak demand and solar power

The shift in peak electricity demand is typical of conditions to which the electric grid will have to adapt in the coming years as electric utilities build new wind and solar power plants. The state of California mandates new homes be built with rooftop solar panels, and climate change, scientists believe could lead to more frequent and extreme heat waves. Peak power usage once came during the hottest times of day when rooftop solar panels generate the most power. However, residents are now using more electricity from the grid when the panels produce less power as the sun dips lower on the horizon.
This shift means power companies sometimes use less solar energy and more fossil fuels to keep the power on when electricity demand is highest. Adjustments must be made during severe heat waves to prevent blackouts and equipment failures.

Strain shift and solar energy

Normally, people consume the most electricity during the hottest times of day, when solar power helps power companies rely less on natural gas “peaker” power plants, which are used only during times of high demand. This shift forces companies to use the peaker plants at a time of day when they can’t use as much solar power to fortify the plants that run on non-renewable fuels. This means they rely more on natural gas and other traditional power sources to keep the power on when electricity demand is highest. On hot days, workers often return home and turn on their air conditioners just as solar panels begin to produce less power.  As the sun dips lower in the sky, the panels are less effective. Severe heat waves affect the electric power grid in many ways.

There has never been a better time to install a solar energy system!

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