The New Energy Environment – The Role of the New Power Suppliers
Ray Wright, NovaTech Automation SVP Marketing
In our last article, “Millions of New Grid-Connected Solar Installations Will Require New Monitoring and Control Solutions” we reviewed how new control and monitoring systems will be required to accommodate high penetration of renewable solar generation. In this next article we’ll review the new roles for millions of residential energy consumers that are rapidly becoming residential energy producers.
Power from the People
US residents are increasingly becoming an integral and active part of our power system, and this will accelerate over the next couple decades. The potential is huge: On a sunny day, 200,000 residences – fully equipped with solar panels – become a virtual 1GW power plant. Power output potential is even greater when residential storage is added in. With the growth expected, residential solar can become the largest contributor of electrical power in our new energy future. But making that possible will require voluntary interaction of residential power producers in the US “power machine”. They’ll have to become miniature versions of the big “load-following” power plants, with some of the same mechanisms for remote monitoring and control, and active grid support. They will also require new mechanisms for load sharing and load curtailment.
Part of the Machine
A few solar inverters pushing a few watts on the grid – as we have now in many parts of the US – can be ignored by the power system and by grid operators; collectively they just look like a small reduction in demand from a section of the grid. But when most of the country is solar powered and millions of megawatts are being pushed onto the grid, grid support functions need to be added to the inverters. These grid support functions, as defined in the IEEE 1547 “Smart Inverter” standards, call for abilities to disconnect in response to abnormal voltage/frequency conditions, to “ride through” voltage and frequency events, and to support voltage regulation by modulating real and reactive power output (1). Some of these functions can be supported by the inverter locally and automatically, but most require real time monitoring, supervision, and control from a central DERMs or ADMS system. (More on these systems in a future article.)
Brother, can you spare a watt?
Commercial models that enable consumer “asset-owners” to obtain more value from their unused assets have proliferated. Examples of this are car sharing (Uber, Lyft, etc) and residence sharing (Airbnb, VRBO, etc). Why not also share renewable energy assets – chargers, battery storage, etc – that are not fully utilized? A driver of an EV running low on charge and 50 miles from the nearest commercial charging station may pay a premium to get a quick 5-minute charge – good for 75 miles – at a residential fast charger. Your neighbor who decided not to invest in a Tesla Powerwall may pay to use yours while you are on vacation. This also applies to your fully charged electric Ford pickup truck sitting in your garage while you are on vacation.
Sharing expensive assets that are not otherwise fully utilized improves their ROI and speeds up their deployment. But shared asset systems, as suggested here, will require new apps that address convenience, security, safety and confidentiality. In a future article we’ll take a look at the latest developments in these areas.
Remote monitoring and control of electric energy assets is what NovaTech does best. As the control and monitoring moves from substations to pole tops, into renewable plants, and onto residential inverters and storage, look to NovaTech Automation for new solutions to keep the machine humming.
- EPRI White Paper: Tailoring IEEE 1547 Recommended Smart Inverter Settings Based on Modeled Grid Performance