by Jeff St. John
June 26, 2020

Smart inverters can do a lot of good for power grids facing disruptions from rooftop solar, behind-the-meter batteries and other distributed energy resources. 

First, they can solve the problems that DERs create themselves, such as managing voltage sags and surges from high solar production on distribution circuits by injecting or absorbing reactive power, or even curtailing output — capabilities that could increase solar hosting capacity without threatening grid stability. 

Second, if combined with more advanced communications and controls, they can reduce the need for new utility equipment like capacitor banks and voltage regulators, or defer the need to upgrade circuits and transformers, to manage increasing amounts of locally-generated and distributed electricity. 

But there’s still a wide gap between what smart inverters can do theoretically and what they can be expected to do at massive scale — a hard truth borne out in many of the same pilot projects that have proven their potential value.