At CanSIA Solar Canada in Toronto I attended a breakout session that focused on developing grid technologies for the integration of solar PV and other renewables. The speakers covered a broad range of topics, including weather forecasting for solar load balancing (Rhonda Wright-Hilbig, IESO), economic modelling of renewable penetration (Justin Malecki, Clearsky Advisors), and PV-pilot projects in isolated communities (PJ Fernandex, ABB and Scott Henneberry, Schneider Electric).

Rhonda Wright-Hilbig started off by discussing how the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) sees the Ontario grid evolving over the next few years and how they will meet the challenges created by these changes. Of note, they expect the complete retirement of coal powered electricity by 2015, with the Ontario Power Generation shutting down three coal fired plants last year alone. To compensate for the loss in generation capacity nuclear, hydro, natural gas and solar are seeing increased deployment, with the expectation that Ontario will hit 3 GW of solar PV generation, out of 20-24 GW for the entire grid, by 2018.

Solar PV generation has some unique characteristics, such as variability in output from weather and seasonal cycles, which must be characterized to ensure the smooth operation of the grid. During the talk Ms. Wright-Hilbig emphasized that each generation technology has a particular set of characteristics that must be accounted for, for successful grid integration. In this sense, solar PV is no different than any other generation technology. However, solar and wind generation are unique in their sensitivity to meteorological conditions. In response IESO has developed a Centralized Forecasting Service ( that all renewable projects with greater than 5 MW generation are required to participate in. This services allows IESO to anticipate changes in renewable generation and respond accordingly.

Grid storage is another method to smooth out variability in renewables. As such, storage technologies are expected to play an increasing role in Ontario’s and Canada’s grid. However, at this early stage, making accurate predictions about the rate of deployment is difficult. Justin Malecki from Clearsky Advisors sees 100-1000 MW of grid storage deployed across Canada over the next decade. In part, these numbers will depend on the rate of renewable generation deployment across the nation, which leads to the wide-margin of error in these forecasts.

Both forecasting services and storage allow for active and passive management of the renewable energy supply. Few specifics were offered for demand-side management, as these technologies have yet to be made widely available. However, several of the speakers emphasized the important of demand-side management technologies. Scott Hanneberry firmly stated this point by claiming that the most efficient storage is a flexible load. IESO expects to start seeing smart-appliances like hot water heaters, electric vehicles, and other home automation technologies across Ontario in the future. All of these technologies will help them manage peak demand more effectively and shift loads to low-demand time during the night.

Overall, it was clear that the global industry is climbing the learning curve for a high-penetration of renewables on the grid. In Canada and Ontario the investments are being made today to facilitate significant renewable deployment in the coming years.

Josh LaForge

Joshua LaForge

PhD Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

University of Alberta