How Solar Power and Energy Storage Can Stabilize the Grid


Key takeaways

  • Diversifying energy sources reduces the risk of failures and interruptions.
  • Energy storage has fixed the big intermittency challenges of solar.
  • Microinverters are making major efficiency gains.
  • Solar is no longer a backup energy source – it truly helps to stabilize the grid.

Table of Contents


Many people think of solar-generated power as a self-contained energy source – it helps a household or business become more energy-independent by allowing them to create their own supply of electricity. But with the advent of cutting-edge battery and inverter technology, solar power and energy storage are also proving to be fantastic assets for managing and stabilizing the wider electrical grid.

Read on to find out why solar power is making electricity access more reliable for everyone – including those who don’t use renewable energy.

What factors impact grid stability?

There are lots of factors that affect how stable an electrical grid is at any given time. The most common challenge is matching supply with demand. How much power consumers need fluctuates depending on the time of day, the weather conditions outside, or even a national holiday or big event. In the U.S., for example, many people set up festive lights for the holiday season, running these from just after Thanksgiving until the New Year. This creates an estimated 3.5 billion kWh of extra energy demand across the country every December! Meanwhile, supply can fluctuate for many reasons, too. Perhaps there’s a natural disaster or just a particularly bad storm that knocks out a transmission line. Perhaps there’s a technical failure at a power plant, or it has to undergo scheduled maintenance, which runs the risk of taking some power generation capacity offline. Even a relatively small imbalance between electricity supply and demand can cause problems. It can mean voltage fluctuations, deviations in frequency, or loss of power altogether. To ensure the stability of the grid, it’s vital to have excellent mechanisms and technologies in place to manage and monitor grid operations. But more and more, we’re seeing how diversifying sources of electricity feeding into the grid makes a huge impact, too.
Hoymiles blog-what factors impact grid stability

How distributing power sources reduces the risk of an outage

Most of the time, electricity from the grid comes from power plants and is distributed using transmission lines. If you get a failure or interruption somewhere in this infrastructure, you’re really in trouble – there’s no other source to fill in the gap.

Diversifying energy sources is a great way to mitigate these vulnerabilities. The more decentralized your energy sources, the wider you spread the risk. If there’s a failure somewhere in your infrastructure, it doesn’t take out your whole energy supply – just some of it.

Solar energy really is the epitome of decentralized energy production. If every home or business had their own, small-scale solar PV installation, that would mean millions of diversified sources to feed into the grid and pick up the slack if a primary source was ever to go down.

How distributing power sources reduces the risk of an outage

Why is solar a great addition to the mix?

Solar is a particularly attractive choice for this because it’s so low risk. Unlike most other green, renewable sources, harnessing solar energy is easy and cheap. You can install a small solar power generation system in pretty much any residential or commercial building that has outside space and access to sunlight, adapting it to fit the shape of the building. Nowadays we can even install solar systems on balconies or float them in a lake. And it’s not as if we’re going to run out of sunlight any time soon. Solar is an infinite resource that’s free to access and doesn’t rely on complex supply chains – you can harness it directly. It’s no wonder that feeding solar power into the grid is an attractive prospect for any grid operator looking to make their grid more resilient.

Tackling the intermittency challenges of solar

That’s not to say solar power doesn’t come with challenges.

Until recently, it wasn’t seen as a reliable energy source. That’s mostly because it’s dependent on sunshine to create solar energy. In the past, you would have had little hope of using solar power if you lived in a country with unpredictable weather, or in the winter when sunlight is limited.

That lack of predictability and consistency isn’t great for grid stability. But major developments in solar inverter technology and energy storage have helped to reduce the impact of some of these issues.

Microinverters and Hybrid Inverters

Two types of cutting-edge solar inverters are proving to be game changers for grid stability.

The first innovation is the microinverter. Microinverters optimize the output of each solar panel in an installation and convert this from DC electricity into AC electricity, which you can then use in your home or building, or feed into the grid.

Microinverters are amazing efficiency-boosters, maximizing uptime and energy production.

A traditional string inverter connects a whole line of solar panels in series, converting all of the energy from all of those panels at once. But this isn’t great for reliability or consistency; if one of those solar panels fails, or falls into shade, then it doesn’t matter if your other panels are still absorbing plenty of sunlight. The energy output of that entire line of panels is going to drop.

Crucially, a microinverter converts power from each individual solar panel individually. This means that, if one panel fails or doesn’t get enough sunlight, the other panels will keep working at full capacity. This means you can generate lots more power – and do so much more consistently.

And then there are hybrid inverters. These convert DC electricity into AC, too – but they can also convert AC back into DC, so you can store this in batteries. We’ll see why this is so important in the next part of this blog.

Cutting-Edge Battery storage

So, microinverters make solar power more efficient on cloudy days, or in the event of a panel failure. But there was still one major worry about solar energy’s reliability: there’s no way to generate solar energy at night time, or when the sun is completely obscured by cloud.

Recent improvements in battery storage technology have helped solve this issue.

We’re finally at a point where you can reliably incorporate high-power batteries into a solar PV installation. During peak production times, you can use solar energy to charge the batteries (thanks to your hybrid inverter, of course) and then release the energy back when you need it.

This gives you uninterrupted, reliable electricity from the system, even when there’s no sunshine.

Hoymiles Cutting-Edge Battery storage

Introducing smart grid technology

At the same time, the most forward-thinking utility companies are doing their part by investing in smart grid technology that matches supply and demand faster and more effectively than ever before.

This means they can incorporate solar power fed in from multiple sources with greater confidence and precision, managing any frequency and voltage fluctuations. This makes it much easier to spread the risk of failure, improving resilience and efficiency, and making the grid far more stable overall.  

Solar has evolved from backup source to grid stabilizer

A solar PV installation used to be seen as a backup situation at best. Or, at worst, a fad that would never be truly viable.

But technology has evolved fast. Solar is now a reliable, affordable, attractive energy source.

And this new kind of solar – supported by the latest technologies that make it more efficient, more adaptable, and more resilient – isn’t just benefiting people who own a solar system. It’s improving the stability of the whole electrical grid.

Which means more reliable, more efficient, and more open energy – for everyone.

If you’re interested in trying out some of the latest solar technology, get in touch – we’ll help you build a PV system that helps you make the most of the sun’s power.