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More and more solar systems: Electricity network operators are required – News


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The continued strong expansion of solar systems poses major challenges for the electricity network operator Swissgrid.

Switzerland is currently moving from record to record, with more solar systems being installed every month. Last year alone there were new photovoltaic systems with a total output of around 1,500 megawatts – one and a half times as much as the output of the Gösgen nuclear power plant.

And in the first three months of this year things continued at an even faster pace: additional systems with an output of around 450 megawatts are already planned.

Irregular electricity production from the sun

For Swissgrid, the large amount of solar power is increasingly becoming a challenge. “Photovoltaic systems do not produce electricity very stably or regularly,” says managing director Yves Zumwald.

We need progress on sunshine forecasting.

“That’s why we need progress in forecasting – so that we can better estimate the amount of electricity likely to be produced.”

Solar technicians install a photovoltaic system on a roof.

Legend:

Photovoltaic systems are being expanded as much as possible. This is also what Swissgrid and the electricity grid in general demand.

Keystone/Christian Beutler

Specifically, new sensors on electricity pylons and data from local electricity suppliers should help to improve forecasts for Switzerland. It’s about information about when, where and how strong the sun shines. Or not.

Optimize the control energy provided

This is also important because Swissgrid has to ensure around the clock that it does not have too much or too little electricity in the network. To do this, the electricity network operator must have so-called balancing energy available in order to be able to stabilize the network at any time and at short notice.

With better forecasts, the amount of control energy provided can also be optimized, says Zumwald. After all, this control energy is not free. Swissgrid has to buy them, and that costs different amounts depending on the season or day.

Renewal of the power lines

The increase in solar power produced has another impact on Swissgrid: parallel to the expansion of the solar systems, the power lines also have to be gradually strengthened, i.e. thicker cables have to be installed.

There is a discrepancy between the electricity generation system and the electricity transport system.

Such reinforcements to the network must be planned, approved and built. Experience has shown that given the lengthy procedures, it takes years, if not decades, depending on the management, until they are effectively operational.

For Swissgrid boss Zumwald, that’s far too long. “There is a discrepancy between the electricity generation system and the electricity transport system.”

The Federal Council has planned to streamline all procedures for strengthening the network, but the template has not yet been fully developed. So it will still be a few years before new power grids can be expanded more quickly.

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