With severe weather events growing in frequency and magnitude, the stability of the electrical grid is in the spotlight. The review is expanding to include its expansion and potentially weaker modified components.

There’s good news: Photovoltaic (PV) solar got good press in the wake of devastating Hurricane Ian in September — a large solar-powered residential community stayed online while surrounding areas blacked out. But solar farms have taken it from others, especially with two powerful hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico in 2017 that led the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to begin research on how solar PV systems can be resilient. -a.

Promising cleaner power, solar and wind continue to contribute to the electrical grid. But the other side of the coin is reliability. How can renewable assets stand up against natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes? How does its risk profile match that of infrastructure that produces fossil fuels?

Those are the questions worrying the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), whose Applied Technology Council’s Seismic Code Support Committee is proposing stricter standards for the construction of ground-mounted utility-scale solar, wind, and storage projects. The FEMA advisory panel is asking the International Codes Council (ICC) to move the installations to a higher structural risk category in the pending 2024 International Building Code it administers, a move it says will better ensure the uninterrupted performance of path of severe typhoons or seismic. events.

Interests in renewable energy, however, are pushing back. Three groups, the American Clean Power Association, the Distributed Wind Energy Association, and the Solar Energy Industries Association protested the proposal, saying a tougher standard would raise the cost of installing solar arrays and wind. turbines, will slow down their performance, and put renewable energy investment at risk. at a critical stage in its development.

In a letter sent to the ICC and endorsed by more than 300 companies, the groups issued the premise that renewable power assets should be resilient against extreme weather events and that the cost of minus any marginal additional risk would be too high.

“A code change in consideration for the upcoming 2024 IBC may affect the deployment of construction costs without achieving the goal of grid resiliency and reliability,” the letter said. – said. “Grid reliability and grid resilience are not based on the survival of structures, but on grid planning and resilience.”

The code change under consideration would move solar and wind projects from near the lowest to the highest level of structural integrity. That means more materials and design and construction changes, which will affect delivery and performance, say opponents, without necessarily cutting the value proposition for renewable energy. Projects may be delayed or canceled due to higher costs or lack of availability of products that meet the standard. And completed projects may be less efficient; The height of the wind turbine, for example, must be reduced, which reduces the production of electricity.

Renewable energy interests have called for a compromise solution that includes capping the risk categorization for solar facilities at Level 2, just one notch from the current ones. essential At that level, they say, the deployment of renewable energy projects can stay on course for much-needed growth.

ICC members considering the 2024 IBC have had the original proposal led by FEMA and the alternatives in hand since mid-October. Voting is scheduled to end on November 1. Once the votes are counted, renewable energy interests will have a clearer picture of whether 2023 will be the year to transition to a set of stricter requirements. .

Tom Zind is a freelance writer based in Lees Summit, Mo. He can be reached at tomzind@att.net.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *