• Energy Technologies
  • Renewable Energy
  • Solar Photovoltaics
  • Wind Power

Myths and Misconceptions Surrounding Hybrid Power Plants

Michael Kelly
Mar 18, 2022

Guidehouse Insights

Intermittent renewable energy systems such as solar PV and wind have surged to capture a record share of global electricity generation. According to Guidehouse Insights, the share of renewables in global electricity generation rose to 29% in 2020, up from 27% in 2019. As renewable energy resource capacity on the grid increases, so does the volatility of grid supply. Deploying energy storage technologies is one solution to improve grid flexibility. When paired with energy storage, renewable energy systems can be dispatched to provide needed capacity and ancillary services such as frequency regulation and operating reserves. Developers increasingly want the ability to control each pairing as a single or hybrid resource, and hybridization allows colocated assets to act as a single resource, unlocking greater value.

More Sophisticated Control Platforms are Required

By 2030, more than 15% of annual renewable energy capacity additions are expected to come from renewables plus storage resources. While developers and utilities may assume they have the domain knowledge to easily facilitate this transition, several misconceptions are creating early pain points and project inefficiencies throughout the industry. In Guidehouse Insights’ Integrated M&C Platforms for Hybrid Power Plants white paper, six of these myths are discussed in detail to find the source of the misconceptions and provide guidance around what is actually required to enable hybrid optimization of renewables plus storage power plants. These myths include:

  • Buying the right monitoring and control (M&C) pieces means that they will work well together: Standalone solar PV and energy storage projects rely on traditional SCADA and building energy management system controls, which often lack the sophistication required to support hybrid optimization. Given the complex coordination requirements of hybrid power plants, a new iteration of advanced control systems will be required.
  • Software that comes with a renewable energy asset is ideal for the job: Developers have been quick to adopt M&C software that comes with inverters, batteries, turbines, and more. However, there are a growing number of tradeoffs related to functionality, design complexity, and data accessibility that require rethinking these traditional procurement strategies.
  • Order of installation for M&C pieces does not matter: It is not uncommon to have multiple control systems operating within a single hybrid or colocated power plant. This can create project inefficiencies due to poor coordination and stitched together control system architectures.
  • Legacy SCADA constrains the value of new systems: If solar SCADA is already installed, what is the value of deploying a new system? Hybrid operations demand intelligent control systems that are capable of autonomously calculating and optimizing the output of multiple resources. However, legacy SCADA only allows for manual, dispatch-only setpoints.
  • We are limited by battery capacities: Developers may assume that they are limited by battery size or plant architecture when designing storage capacity additions, given the uncertainty around charge and discharge behavior. This is not always the case; dynamic state-of-charge-based charging capabilities can provide more flexible approaches to plant design.
  • Different use cases demand different batteries: Developers may assume that they need to deploy separate batteries to enable different services-based use cases, including demand charge management, ramp rate control, and frequency regulation. Sophisticated controls enable a wider range of use cases to be delivered using the same batteries, allowing developers to capture the full energy storage value stack.

Given the nascency of hybrid power plants, there is still considerable confusion across the energy industry as to the associated technical requirements, best practices, and pain points. To enable real-time, synchronized coordination and control across multiple energy resources, more sophisticated M&C platforms are needed.