Solar Power Caused Blackouts Across the Philippines — And It’s Going To Get Worse

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Solar power is wrecking the electrical grid in the Philippines, and the blackouts are only going to get worse according to reports by power grid operators published Monday.

Data from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) showed that solar power has caused ‘stress’ on the power grid, leading to brownouts and blackouts. The data show that solar power is frying the grid by producing either too much, or too little electricity, triggering failures and blackouts in the Visayas island group of the Philippines.

The country has already dialed down its geothermal and coal power plants to their minimum load requirements in an attempt to advert disaster, but there has already been damage to the grid and, subsequently, power interruptions. The damage is going to get worse as well because the islands’ power grid can’t handle excess capacity.

In order for the power grid to function, demand for energy must exactly match supply. Solar power runs the risk of providing either to much energy or not enough, as it cannot easily adjust output. Adding green power, which only provides power at intermittent and unpredictable times, makes the power grid more fragile, especially in developing countries. Power demand is relatively predictable, and conventional power plans, like nuclear plants and natural gas, can adjust output accordingly. Peak power demand also occurs in the evenings, when solar power is going offline.

Additionally, solar and wind power systems require conventional backups to produce electricity, because they do not generate electricity at times when it is most needed. Since the output of solar and wind plants cannot be predicted with high accuracy by forecasts, grid operators have to keep excess reserve running just in case. This also places extra stress on the grid which can cause brownouts or blackouts.

“If you continue going down this route, you’re going to have significant challenges in managing disturbances,” John Moura, director of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corp, told EnergyWire late last month.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently investigating how green energy undermines the reliability of the electrical grid. FERC believe there is a “significant risk” of electricity in the United States becoming unreliable because “wind and solar don’t offer the services the shuttered coal plants provided.” Environmental regulations could make operating coal or natural gas power plant unprofitable, which could compromise the reliability of the American power grid.

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