Interconnected European Grid Key to Managing Variations In Solar Irradiance

Highlights :

  • March 2022 saw Spain suffer its biggest solar irradiance decline in 28 years
  • Deviations such as these call for investment in effective interconnections and forecasting that will provide an impetus to the European renewable energy sector
Interconnected European Grid Key to Managing Variations In Solar Irradiance

The Decline In Solar Irradiance Has Sounded A Warning

After it witnessed the wettest month in March 2022 in 61 years, Spain experienced the sharpest decline in solar irradiance in 28 years.

The findings from a team of experts from solar data firm Solargis reveal that there has been a 50 per cent decline in Spanish solar irradiance. This has been an eye-opener, given that this has been the most acute decline ever since the beginning of satellite-based records in 1994.

On the other end of the spectrum, Germany and the Balkans offer a stark contrast to the Spanish solar irradiance as they enjoyed 45 per cent of higher levels of solar irradiance at the same time of the year.

At the same time, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had dire consequences for Europe as far as energy is concerned. The prevailing situation in Europe calls for stronger natural resource and energy management, without dependence on fossil fuels. This has necessitated improvement in regional grids and cross-continental infrastructure.

What The Deviations From Average Values Mean

If the aberrations from the average values of solar irradiance are anything to go by, Spain, among the sunniest countries in Europe and Germany, have put project developers and investors in a dilemma when it comes to arriving at accurate figures related to the return on investment as well as integrating solar energy into the continent’s grid. Significantly, this comes at a time when policymakers are looking at slashing the EU’s Russian oil and gas dependence through increase of the adoption of renewables.

With Spain one of Europe’s sunniest countries and Germany looking to triple its solar energy capacity to 215GW, these significant deviations from average values pose a challenge to project developers and investors seeking to accurately calculate return on investment and support the integration of solar into the continent’s grid. This is particularly significant at a time when policymakers are determined to slash the EU’s Russian oil and gas dependence by increasing adoption of renewables.

The loopholes in Europe’s Grid Interconnection

It doesn’t bode well for the continent that grid interconnection in Europe currently does not have the bandwidth to accommodate the growth in renewables. This, in turn, impedes the potential of neighbouring solar and wind-rich regions to make up for the unfavourable market conditions in countries such as Spain. Thus, strengthening interconnected grids becomes key.

Investing in Interconnection Infrastructure, Research Is The Way Ahead

Improved grids across countries will facilitate regional utility companies to make up for localised variability by way of clean energy sources instead of relying on fossil fuels. However, this is not to say that the modernisation of the grid is without challenges. Marcel Suri, CEO, Solargis, makes a strong case for forecasting models, “A new generation of forecasting models allows grid operators to maintain balance between variable and flexible energy sources through flexible trading and energy exchange. The digitalisation of our grids coupled with increased interconnectivity ultimately will allow larger generators to react faster and more efficiently to regional variability of renewables.”

Against this challenging backdrop, primacy has been placed on a more coordinated energy approach. The recent initiative, SERENDI-PV, for instance, is a significant step in this direction. The project is financed by the European Commission to look into and study the reliable integration of PV (photovoltaics) into EU grids.

Marcel Suri concludes, “Controlling the weather is outside of our capabilities however, by looking at Europe as an interconnected, rather than country-specific, energy grid, there is the potential to balance out the market.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concept of One World, One Sun One Grid alludes to precisely such a situation in some ways, by making the case for strong interconnected grids that can shift large amounts of renewable energy, particularly solar, as different regions benefit from the solar irradiance.

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