On the Path to SunShot: Emerging Issues and Challenges in Integrating Solar with the Distribution System

Bryan Palmintier, Barry Mather, Michael Coddington, Kyri Baker, Fei Ding, Robert Broderick, Matthew Reno, Matthew Lave, Ashwini Bharatkumar

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This report analyzes distribution-integration challenges, solutions, and research needs in the context of distributed generation from PV (DGPV) deployment to date and the much higher levels of deployment expected with achievement of the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot targets. Recent analyses have improved estimates of the DGPV hosting capacities of distribution systems. This report uses these results to statistically estimate the minimum DGPV hosting capacity for the contiguous United States using traditional inverters of approximately 170 GW without distribution system modifications. This hosting capacity roughly doubles if advanced inverters are used to manage local voltage and additional minor, low-cost changes could further increase these levels substantially. Key to achieving these deployment levels at minimum cost is siting DGPV based on local hosting capacities, suggesting opportunities for regulatory, incentive, and interconnection innovation. Already, pre-computed hosting capacity is beginning to expedite DGPV interconnection requests and installations in select regions; however, realizing SunShot-scale deployment will require further improvements to DGPV interconnection processes, standards and codes, and compensation mechanisms so they embrace the contributions of DGPV to system-wide operations. SunShot-scale DGPV deployment will also require unprecedented coordination of the distribution and transmission systems. This includes harnessing DGPV's ability to relieve congestion and reduce system losses by generating closer to loads; minimizing system operating costs and reserve deployments through improved DGPV visibility; developing communication and control architectures that incorporate DGPV into system operations; providing frequency response, transient stability, and synthesized inertia with DGPV in the event of large-scale system disturbances; and potentially managing reactive power requirements due to large-scale deployment of advanced inverter functions. Finally, additional local and system-level value could be provided by integrating DGPV with energy storage and 'virtual storage,' which exploits improved management of electric vehicle charging, building energy systems, and other large loads. Together, continued innovation across this rich distribution landscape can enable the very-high deployment levels envisioned by SunShot.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages99
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

SAND2016-2524 R

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5D00-65331


  • codes
  • DGPV
  • distributed generation
  • distribution
  • energy storage
  • grid
  • hosting capacity
  • integration
  • interconnection
  • inverter
  • penetration
  • photovoltaics
  • PV
  • rates
  • reactive power
  • solar
  • standards
  • SunShot
  • transmission
  • virtual storage


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