Quantifying Solar PV Variability at Multiple Timescales for Power Systems Studies: Preprint

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Increasing penetration of solar photovoltaics (PV) has concerned power system operators about their ability to balance load and generation over multiple timescales and maintain acceptable frequency profile because of the variability and uncertainty associated with solar PV. This paper focuses on developing metrics to quantify solar PV variability at multiple temporal scales ranging from seconds to an hour to help power system operators and planners better understand and account for solar PV variability under high solar PV penetration. Fourier coefficients of solar irradiation spectrum and average size of solar irradiation ramps over a day are the two metrics that are used to quantity the variability. It is shown that by using the two metrics the days with highest and lowest solar irradiation variability can be identified, which is useful information for operations planning or long-term power system planning studies. The key findings of the paper are (i) single sensor-based variability quantification can significantly exaggerate the variability of a solar PV plant, particularly at seconds to 1-min temporal resolution, (ii) at 1-minute or lower temporal resolutions, single sensor-based variability quantification of an entire plant can be fairly accurate, with the accuracy increasing as the temporal resolution reduces from 1-minute to 1-hour, (iii) at each 1-minute and lower temporal resolutions, maximum solar irradiation ramps appear to be independent of the geographical location of the sensor, and (iv) significant reduction in solar PV plant variability over a region with multiple plants is possible at all temporal scales, but more high quality, high temporal resolution data is needed to quantify the reduction with high confidence.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2020
Event47th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC 47) -
Duration: 15 Jun 202021 Aug 2020


Conference47th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC 47)

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5D00-75869


  • photovoltaics
  • power systems
  • PV
  • solar
  • variability


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