We introduce firm solar forecasts as a strategy to operate optimally overbuilt solar power plants in conjunction with optimally sized storage systems so as to make up for any power prediction errors, and hence entirely remove load balancing uncertainty emanating from grid-connected solar fleets. A central part of this strategy is the plant overbuilding that we term implicit storage. We show that strategy, while economically justifiable on its own account, is an effective entry step to achieving least-cost ultra-high solar penetration where firm power generation will be a prerequisite. We demonstrate that in the absence of an implicit storage strategy, ultra-high solar penetration would be vastly more expensive. Using the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) as a case study, we determine current and future costs of firm forecasts for a comprehensive set of scenarios in each ISO electrical region, comparing centralized vs. decentralized production and assessing load flexibility’s impact. We simulate the growth of the strategy from firm forecast to firm power generation. We conclude that ultra-high solar penetration enabled by the present strategy, whereby solar would firmly supply the entire NYISO load, could be achieved locally at electricity production costs comparable to current NYISO wholesale market prices.

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