Too Much of a Good Thing? Global Trends in the Curtailment of Solar PV

Eric O'Shaughnessy, Jesse R. Cruce, Kaifeng Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus Citations


Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems generate electricity with no marginal costs or emissions. As a result, PV output is almost always prioritized over other fuel sources and delivered to the electric grid. However, PV curtailment is increasing as PV composes greater shares of grid capacity. In this paper, we present a novel synthesis of curtailment in four key countries: Chile, China, Germany, and the United States. We find that about 6.5 million MWh of PV output was curtailed in these countries in 2018. We find that: Policy and grid planning practices influence where, when, and how much PV is curtailed; Some PV curtailment is attributable to limited transmission capacity connecting remote solar resources to load centers; PV curtailment peaks in the spring and fall, when PV output is relatively high but electricity demand is relatively low. We discuss available measures to reduce PV curtailment as well as increasing PV curtailment in the contexts of evolving grids and energy technologies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1068-1077
Number of pages10
JournalSolar Energy
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-76360


  • Curtailment
  • Dispatch
  • Flexibility
  • Grid policy
  • Solar photovoltaics
  • System constraints


Dive into the research topics of 'Too Much of a Good Thing? Global Trends in the Curtailment of Solar PV'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this