Why We Need to Know: Tracking Solar Production in NYC

April 16, 2013 | Article, Media Release

Currently, Con Edison has no way to track the amount of solar energy being produced in any given hour on its grid. A smarter, cleaner and more resilient electric grid requires integrating intelligent data monitoring with distributed energy generation systems like solar and emergency generators. Many of the existing PV systems have some variation of data monitoring systems that can inform the owner or installer of the power that their installation is producing. However, those systems don’t communicate with one another and that information is not being collected in any single data center.

Sustainable CUNY is deploying a limited number of data monitoring systems to provide a sample snapshot of critical real-time information on solar generation to Con Edison, allowing them to: evaluate the impact of solar production on grid reliability; integrate solar into their smart grid efforts; and improve their power management applications. This data can also lay the groundwork for Con Edison to be able to reduce the use of expensive and dirty peaking power plants during periods of energy demand that coincide with high solar generation. Hurricane Sandy likewise demonstrated our need for extending our energy grid intelligence so that distributed emergency power can support smart critical relief during prolonged power outages. Using Sustainable CUNY’s solar installations database on the NYC Solar Map, it was found that the neighborhoods with area-wide power outages directly after Sandy could have had solar energy available for emergency power needs if configured for off-grid use.  Emergency Power & FAQ

This emergency energy would have come from existing solar systems already built in those communities, representing almost half of the solar installations in the city. CUNY was able to determine from its existing solar energy monitors that these systems collectively could have provided 6,500 kilowatt-hours of critical emergency energy. Real-time energy monitoring of these systems could have supported City and Federal emergency staff in order to target resources to the neighborhoods that were impacted the most.

Sustainable CUNY, using IBM’s Intelligent Operation Center (IOC) platform, has developed the SMART Solution for Solar, the first steps to establishing a central data and analytics center. Data from the monitors CUNY deployed is being collected and CUNY is seeking cooperation from owners and installers to link the data from their various monitors and inverters to the Smart Solutions for Solar. Analytics can then provide a dashboard of information to the City and utility companies to provide a realistic picture of solar production and value, positioning New York City to meet the smarter communications and resiliency components of the electric grid transformation of the 21st century.