There's a growing awareness in the business community about the need for decentralized renewable energy. Distributed energy resources (DERs) are devices connected to the traditional grid that bring in energy from remote sources. A new energy paradigm is emerging that brings major improvements to existing power plants. Instead of a utility generating all of its own power to distribute to a community, multiple decentralized energy sources can now contribute to a central power distribution system.
Pressure is growing from communities for manufacturers and other big operators to reduce pollution and waste. Adding IoT systems and distributed energy resources to a power generation system helps prevent wasted energy and reduces greenhouse gases. DERs such as solar and wind installations are placed near loads and don't require long power lines. Here's a look at how this new paradigm is helping utilities strengthen their business models.
What Is Distributed Generation?
In the future, the traditional power grid will seem ancient, as it will be reimagined to utilize distributed energy, which is community-generated power that feeds into the main electric distribution grid. The DER concept is part of a broader sustainability plan since it provides renewable energy and uses IoT sensors to avoid energy losses. Solar and wind installations work well for this emerging decentralized solution that creates two-way energy flows for utilities.
Sometimes, power imbalances occur between the transmission and distribution grid operators. Reserves must be balanced and power generation should be stable for a utility to run at a level of high efficiency. The ability to access stored energy from various sources creates a more sustainable system that no longer has to rely on one main energy source.
How DER Disrupts the Power Industry
While DER is turning utilities into more efficient operations, it's raising the bar for consumer expectations about electricity reliability in the future. Using renewables to supplement the grid will help resolve the power gaps that can occur during peak demand periods. But in order for the whole nation to benefit from DER, every energy provider in the grid system needs to participate in the transformation toward smart technology and adoption of renewables.
DER Orchestration Considerations
- Modeling - The utility can be analyzed using a model known as a network digital twin that replicates a business's entire operation in a virtual environment. Analysis of the model can lead to more accurate electrical connectivity and optimize the use of DER digital and virtual assets.
- Interconnectivity - With a DER orchestration, all components must be interconnected with the ability to communicate with each other. Operators of transmission and distribution facilities need to evaluate various types of DERs to decide what type of equipment will be compatible with their system.
- Predicting Energy Performance – Distributed energy systems can be integrated with machine learning software that predicts power shortages and when to tap into renewables as supplemental energy. Analysis of both real-time data and historical data can generate recommendations for power solutions. The system can also be programmed to automatically draw power from backup renewables when voltage suddenly drops.
- Controlling and Scheduling - DERs can present challenges in controlling and scheduling issues that conflict between transmission and distribution operators. DER orchestration needs to be flexible so that renewable resources can be distributed effectively to serve prosumers, aggregators, and grid operators.
Renewable energy is already playing a major role in the transformation of utilities to become more efficient with lower costs and more reliable output. Solar and wind systems have contributed to the rise in DER adoption among utilities in which energy is generated by various providers in a community. The old-fashioned, one-way, one-size-fits all power generation model of the past is eroding in favor of decentralized power solutions that will help utilities achieve greater sustainability.