Key Differences and Comparative Advantages between Centralized and Distributed Photovoltaic Systems | Demuda

April 24, 2024

With the development of green energy, photovoltaic power generation has emerged as a significant clean energy option. This article aims to delve into the differences and connections between two mainstream modes of photovoltaic power plants - centralized and distributed PV systems, as well as their respective advantages and challenges.

I. Overview of Distributed Photovoltaic Power Plants

Distributed PV systems are installed on building surfaces, primarily serving local electricity demands through grid-connected mode, enabling surplus power to be fed back into the grid and compensation mechanisms.


1. Located close to load centers, they can directly supply power, reducing reliance on the grid and minimizing transmission line losses.

2. By integrating PV cells with building materials, they save land resources by utilizing building surfaces.

3. They can efficiently interface with smart grids and microgrids, offering high operational flexibility and some degree of autonomous operation capability.


1. The integration of distributed PV may cause changes in distribution network power flow, leading to additional losses and challenges in protection settings, transformer adjustments, etc.

2. It imposes higher technical requirements for voltage stability and reactive power control, especially when large-scale PV is connected, making power factor control more difficult.

3. There's a need for strengthening distribution network-level energy management systems and improving communication and secondary equipment levels to cope with the increased system complexity brought about by large-scale PV connections.

II. Introduction to Centralized Photovoltaic Power Plants

Centralized PV power plants are built in solar resource-rich desert areas and deliver power to distant loads through high-voltage transmission systems.

Advantages include:

1. Higher site selection flexibility leads to more stable PV output that can better match peak demand periods, contributing to peak-shaving.

2. They offer better operational flexibility in terms of reactive power and voltage control, easily participating in grid frequency regulation.

3. They have shorter construction cycles, strong environmental adaptability, low O&M costs, easy centralized management, and considerable expansion potential.


1. Their reliance on long-distance transmission lines may exacerbate grid losses, voltage fluctuations, and reactive power compensation issues.

2. The cooperative running management technology among large-scale PV plant equipment needs further improvement.

3. Large-capacity centralized PV connecting to the grid requires meeting Low Voltage Ride-Through (LVRT) functions, presenting new challenges in islanding effect prevention.

III. The Main Difference Between Distributed and Centralized Photovoltaic Power Plants

The core distinction between the two lies in the scale of the power plants and their geographical locations. Distributed PV is typically smaller in size and located near load centers, allowing for on-site consumption; centralized PV refers to large-scale ground-mounted plants situated away from load regions.

IV. Specific Application Differences:

1. Varying installation locations: Distributed PV is commonly applied on rooftops, agricultural greenhouses, and other living and production sites, while centralized PV is often deployed in deserts, wastelands, or other expansive areas.

2. Different grid connection voltage levels: Distributed PV usually connects to the grid at 380V low voltage, whereas centralized PV generally interfaces with the 35KV or 110KV high-voltage grid.

3. Distinctive equipment configurations: Distributed PV systems feature simpler equipment such as small inverters, transformers, and combiner boxes; centralized PV installations come equipped with a full set of substation facilities including large inverters, main transformers, various current transformers, etc., and their secondary devices like microcomputer protection systems are also more complex.

In summary, both distributed and centralized PV power plants follow the principle of photovoltaic conversion and ultimately feed power into the grid, but there are significant differences in aspects such as plant layout, grid connection methods, equipment configuration, and transmission distances. Currently, distributed PV is widely regarded as having promising prospects due to policy support, lower losses, and ease of maintenance. However, centralized PV still plays an irreplaceable role in certain environments thanks to its economies of scale and efficient use of solar resources. Both types of PV power plants have their unique strengths and collectively drive the global transition towards a greener energy structure.

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