The demand for power among consumers and businesses will only grow over the next decade. And the traditional grid system will be challenged to meet these needs. Additionally, any form of disruption can cause volatile swings in energy prices.
But with the help of on-site renewable energy sources paired with advancing off-grid technologies, distributed power systems can help take the strain off the conventional grid.
Due to a need for enhanced resiliency and lower energy costs, utilities are increasingly seeking to implement distributed energy resources (DERs).
Distributed Energy Resources Defined
Various types of distributed energy resources include energy generators and energy storage solutions. DER systems commonly generate less than 10 megawatts (MW) of power, and depending on your specific needs, can be compact enough to fit in small areas at your facility.
These systems can also either be grid-tied or operate independently off the grid, running on renewable energy systems, such as solar, wind, and hydrogen fuel production, as well as energy storage. Other DER systems include fuel cells, cogeneration, reciprocating engines, and combustion turbines.
DER Systems Applications
Power plants can use DER systems in multiple ways to enhance their service. Not only can these systems reduce energy strain and costs, they can also make electric power generation more reliable. With the ability to island, a facility no longer has to depend on the grid to remain connected.
Microgrids, localized grids that can operate independently from the conventional grid, will also play an important role in the proliferation of DER systems. By having the ability to function while the main grid is down, microgrids can help strengthen grid resilience and help mitigate any disturbances. They can also serve as a grid resource for faster system response and recovery.
The Stone Edge Farm Microgrid is one example of a self-sustaining island. It can store energy generated from clean resources indefinitely, access it instantly, and even export it to the grid. The microgrid also creates fuel for zero emission vehicles.
How DER Helps the Traditional Grid
Designed to produce and distribute electricity in flexible ways, DER systems help improve the grid and quality of life for its users. Some of the key reasons state and local governments are investing more in DERs include:
- Reliability and Resilience - Using an off-grid DER system gives companies backup power when the grid experiences an outage. This solution can help homeowners and businesses deal with natural disasters.
- Greater Efficiency for Energy and Costs - By staying closer to the source of energy generation, you can reduce energy use and cut costs. Companies and individuals that also invest in solar PV panels will be able to feed any excess energy they generate back into the grid, and in some cases, sell them back to utility companies that will pay for it.
- Eco-Friendly Solution - Not only do DERs reduce the amount of electricity generation at a power plant, but the sources can also be emissions-free, such as solar and wind. Most power plants are still driven by fossil fuels, so the more society utilizes renewable resources, the less damage will be done to the environment.
- Better Security Through Decentralization - National security depends on reliable electricity. However, as the conventional grid is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, hacking, and general outages due to aging equipment, companies are at risk of losing power during times when they need it the most. Communities will be more protected the more they utilize decentralized backup energy plans.