Utilities and their customers are on parallel courses to deploy diverse kinds of distributed energy resources and at an accelerating pace. This prompts talk of everything from new business models to mass grid defection. How does research and development address this? The Electric Power Research Institute introduced its concept of an Integrated Grid last year to describe and guide the optimal integration of large, central resources such as traditional fossil and nuclear generation with increasingly diverse distributed resources such as rooftop solar, energy storage, and microgrids.
This Integrated Grid concept has gained broad support. California utilities are developing Distribution Resource Plans to integrate distributed resources with their distribution planning. As part of its Reforming the Energy Vision, New York state defined the concept of a Distribution System Platform. Such actions are essential to maintaining and improving reliability, affordability and customer satisfaction, even as grid operations change along with wholesale or retail products and services.
Achieving an integrated grid requires a concerted effort among utilities, technology developers, researchers and other stakeholders. EPRI has worked with industry advisors and experts to define five research imperatives to guide the development of its research programs and to enable broad collaboration in all aspects of R&D.
EPRI’s Research Imperatives:
Develop the architecture or platform for Integrated Grid design and operation. This will define the important interfaces, communication requirements and information models necessary for this platform to work across all levels of the system.
Integrate dynamic customer resources and behavior into the power system. The objective is to enable rapidly evolving customer technologies with increasing technical sophistication to serve as a grid asset as they are widely and rapidly adopted.
Provide a modeling framework for grid planning and operations. The framework should include transmission system and distribution system modeling requirements, advanced customer and distributed resource models, and environmental and reliability models.
Develop comprehensive, integrated industry technical guidelines and resources that power companies can use to assess and optimally manage flexible operations for their central generation assets, while achieving critical business goals.
Deploy intelligent sensor systems that enable utility decision makers and stakeholders to use real-time data and analytical information. This will be essential for optimizing generation, transmission and distribution assets, while managing environmental impacts.
Along with research imperatives EPRI is deploying its Integrated Grid Benefit-Cost Framework [link] to evaluate economic value and costs of technologies as part of the Integrated Grid, emphasizing the complete electricity system. For example, initially it may be adequate to examine local distribution impacts associated with DER integration. With greater DER penetration, however, the benefits and impacts at the grid level must be included in overall resource planning. The framework outlines the necessary analyses along with the need to clearly define their related scenarios and assumptions.
Beyond analysis lies implementation and the need to learn from early technology deployments, demonstrations and pilot projects. New York State is encouraging utilities to define demonstrations of technologies so that issues associated with their integration can be evaluated along with benefits and costs of deployment.
EPRI is collaborating on projects around the world to capture industrywide lessons learned, develop standards requirements, and apply the benefit-cost framework. Technologies being evaluated in various demonstrations include large solar PV installations, some with smart inverters for systems integration; energy storage for grid applications; distributed PV and energy storage with integration for both distribution and grid support; electric vehicle charging infrastructure; and integration of customer technologies and microgrids.
The lessons learned, the technology integration assessments, and economic impact evaluations for these demonstration projects will benefit the entire industry and lay the foundation for the Integrated Grid.
Mark McGranaghan is vice president of power delivery and utilization at the Electric Power Research Institute in Knoxville, Tenn.