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San Diego Researchers Win Money To Integrate Solar Power Into State Grid

Aired 3/9/12 on KPBS News.

California regulators agreed Thursday to spend nearly $8 million to help integrate solar power into the state's electricity grid. A pair of San Diego researchers have won a share of the project.

— The California Public Utilities Commission is working to make solar power generation more compatible with the power grid.

UC San Diego engineer Jan Kleissl and his colleague Carlos Coimbra have developed forecasting tools that could help save utilities money. That's because the power grid demands a steady flow of electricity and input from solar sources fluctuates.

Solar Thermal Farm
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Above: Solar Thermal Farm

"With the forecast, the utility can now see up to two days ahead what the power output from those solar panels will be," said Kleissl. "And that allows them to better plan the scheduling and dispatching of the other power plants."

Right now utilities plan for back-up power in case the solar grid underperforms. An accurate forecasting tool could dramatically cut the need for backup power.

"It's highly unlikely that the entire solar or wind generation will go out in a short period of time. There's a lot of wasted money, wasted energy and wasted emissions from these power plants that are idling," said Kleissl.

The California Public Utilities Commission is funding research aimed as making solar power easier to use for the state's utilities.

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