The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday directed the North American Electric Reliability Corp. to develop reliability standards for inverter-based resources, or IBRs, such as wind, solar and battery systems.
FERC is bolstering standards for IBRs amid a surge in wind, solar and storage development. Those resources use inverters to convert the direct current electricity they produce to alternating current electricity used on the grid.
Synchronous generators, such as natural gas-fired power plants, typically ride through grid disturbances while IBRs must be programmed to do so.
There have been at least 12 “events” on the grid involving IBRs since 2016, with an average loss of about 1,000 MW, demonstrating the risk that planners and grid operators must account for, FERC Acting Chairman Willie Phillips said Thursday during the agency’s monthly meeting.
“However, IBRs also present new opportunities to support the grid and respond to abnormal grid conditions,” Phillips said. “When appropriately programmed, IBRs can provide operational flexibility and the ability of IBRs to perform with precision, speed and control can mitigate disturbances in the bulk power system.”
FERC directed NERC to address IBR-related reliability gaps on data sharing, model validation, planning and operational studies, and performance requirements.
Most IBRs on the grid will be able to meet any performance requirements with simple software upgrades, FERC Commissioner Allison Clements said.
FERC directed NERC to consider exceptions for older IBRs that may not be able to make the upgrades, according to Clements. “I hope to see such exceptions, as doing so will allow these older resources to continue to provide value to customers without compromising system reliability,” she said.
FERC ordered NERC, a grid watchdog organization, to file the standards in phases, starting with performance requirements, including for known causes of IBR tripping or momentary cessation, by Nov. 4, 2024. The final phase is due in November 2026.
FERC didn’t set an implementation deadline, but told NERC new standards should be in effect before 2030.
The agency should have acted sooner on the reliability risks posed by IBRs, FERC Commissioner James Danly said in a concurring statement.
“The reliability risks at issue arise from the rapid, widespread (one might say reckless) addition of IBRs,” Danly said, noting the issue has been discussed since 2016 and any new standards won’t take effect until the end of the decade. “Up to nearly fourteen years to establish mandatory and enforceable NERC reliability standards to address a known, and potentially catastrophic, risk to the reliability of the [bulk power system] is simply too long a time to wait.”