Grid watchdogs raise concerns about panel design

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, June 12, 2017

Grid overseers are raising concerns about and citing problems in solar panels across the United States following a yearlong investigation of a major wildfire and blackout in Southern California last year.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. yesterday released its investigation of the Blue Cut wildfire last August, which forced hundreds of people to flee their homes in California near the Oregon border, burning 37,000 acres and destroying more than 100 homes (Greenwire, Aug. 26, 2016).

The wildfire also caused disturbances in the power grid that then tripped inverter boxes tied to a number of solar panels, triggering the sudden loss of 1,200 megawatts of power. NERC in its report concluded that solar inverters are vulnerable to “erroneous tripping” and cast the issue as a widespread problem that industry needs to tackle.

NERC also issued a special alert to the solar industry about recommended changes to inverter settings.

“With the proliferation of solar development in all interconnections across North America, the results of this disturbance analysis needs to be widely communicated to the industry highlighting the present potential for widespread solar resource loss during transmission faults on the [bulk power system],” NERC wrote.