US thin-film PV module manufacturer and project developer First Solar said that its 141 MW Luz del Norte solar plant in Chile is the first large-scale PV installation to provide commercial ancillary grid services in the world.
The National Electric Coordinator recently added Luz del Norte to its portfolio of large-scale generators that are authorized to provide a number of grid services, including automatic generation control (AGC).
The facility, located in the Atacama Desert close to Copiapó, is now used to manage the frequency of the country’s electrical system, which helps to guarantee the reliability and stability of the grid.
According to First Solar, the plant has undergone an extensive audit by the National Electrical Coordinator, Laborelec Latam, and First Solar. Until now, grid operators around the world have had to rely exclusively on thermoelectric or hydroelectric plants to respond to load changes and balance generation.
The California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO), the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and First Solar first tested the grid’s capabilities as part of a demonstration project in 2016. The study examined the ability of a First Solar-designed power plant to provide AGC, primary frequency control, ramp speed control, and voltage regulation. The PV plant was found to perform better than gas turbine technologies, which are often used by grid operators to respond to load changes.
“We are very satisfied with this achievement as this increases the spectrum of technologies capable of providing the necessary services to maintain a safe and reliable operation of the electrical system,” said Carlos Barria, an official from the Ministry of Energy.
Launched in 2016, Luz del Norte is one of the largest solar plants in Chile. It features thin-film PV modules from First Solar and inverters from German supplier SMA.