Enbala Blog

Alectra is Building the Business Case for Integrating Microgrids, VPPs and DERMS

By Peter Asmus on Sep 12, 2018 12:59:06 PM

Leading up to a September 17 webinar with Alectra, Navigant and Enbala, Navigant's Peter Asmus provides insights on some of the topics to be covered in the webinar. 

Alectra, the second largest municipal utility in North America, was the first utility to develop a microgrid offering for its customers. It developed a small, commercial-scale microgrid and then a utility-scale microgrid, the latter at its own headquarters at Cityview in Vaughan, Ontario. This utility-scale microgrid integrates a variety of distributed energy resources (DERs) while also featuring the ability to island, if necessary, to maintain reliability at a site that includes Alectra’s center of operations.

This utility-scale microgrid was focused on the internal optimization of these assets to create a reliable optimization network. As Alectra looks out into the future, however, it realizes that it had to build the business case to provincial regulators about why ratepayer investments in control of BTM assets provided value to all distribution network ecosystem stakeholders, including those with DERs and those without. 

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Topics: Alectra, microgrid, Distibuted energy resources, virtual power plant, DERMs

Two Sides of the Same Coin: How Enbala and Alectra Are Pushing the Energy Cloud Envelope

By Peter Asmus on Aug 23, 2018 8:40:11 AM

Guest blogger Peter Asmus of Navigant Research posts this week about virtual power plants, distributed energy resources management systems, microgrids — and the way in which Alectra is bringing them all together to meet its customers energy needs and its own grid reliability requirements. 

Electricity is a multidimensional product that requires constant fine-tuning. Otherwise, the lights go out, resulting in substantial lost economic activity. The challenge of accomplishing this task has become increasingly difficult as the fleet of distributed energy resources (DERs) begins to take over electricity resource pools. Beginning in 2018, annual centralized power resources began to give way to distributed generation and a more diverse DER mix. I noted last year that this transition was likely.

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Topics: VPP, virtual power plant, DERs, DERMs, distributed energy, Navigant Research, energy cloud, Alectra, microgrid

Can DERs Play Too?

By Deborah Hazebroek on Jul 18, 2018 2:06:59 PM

The Question

The world is changing. This isn’t news, of course. In fact, it’s rather old news – the world has changed. And the composition of the power grid has changed along with it. More roofs have solar panels. More garages house electric vehicles. The devices consumers plug into outlets have radically different load profiles than the devices of previous generations. Today there is an increased prevalence of wind farms, smart inverters, batteries and many other distributed energy resources (DERs) at the grid edge.

All these DERs offer tremendous potential through control and optimization. But while this capability presents copious opportunities, it also creates a few headaches, particularly for grid operators, often miles away (literally and figuratively) from where the DERs are located.

Yet DERs are becoming so entrenched in the daily operations of the grid that it’s tempting to ponder just where their limitations lay. With advancements in technology and business models, many innovators are looking to increase value from DERs, which leads to the latest question surrounding the capabilities of these assets: Can DERs play in utility and wholesale markets?

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Topics: VPP, DERs, virtual power plant, distributed energy

Energy – A Fundamental Change in the Grid

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Jun 28, 2018 9:22:00 AM

For more than 100 years utilities have supplied electrical power to customers and have done so with good reliability. The principle is simple. Loads may do as they wish. They may be random or intermittent and generally are not individually monitored by the utility.  Generation, on the other hand, MUST be both dispatchable and monitorable, and electric system operators must be able to manage the real and reactive power from a generator.

Historically, utilities have become very adept at managing generation capacity to maintain a continuous balance between supply and demand. But today, the world is faced with a need to reduce or even eliminate carbon emissions, which complicates the supply-demand balance. Most electricity in the US, for example, is generated by burning fossil fuel. This needs to change, along with change to the electricity supply system and the direct customer use of fossil fuel.  We are looking to remove the steady performers, and to replace them with supplies that are intermittent and perhaps random, all the time maintaining a balance between supply and demand.

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Topics: Solar energy, distributed energy, battery storage, grid balance, grid inversion, clean energy

ELECTRIC VEHICLES – good for our roads, good for our lungs, but good for our grids?

By Lana Gonoratsky on Jun 20, 2018 9:26:00 AM

I take the bus to work. On any given weekday, you can find me waiting on the side of a road while vehicles of all shapes and sizes whiz by, leaving behind a trail of noise and exhaust. It would be all well and good if this was just another weekday annoyance that could be easily shrugged off, like a fresh pile of snow blocking the sidewalk or a texter blissfully skipping the line at a busy coffee shop. But that’s not the case. Vehicle exhaust is a known pollutant that significantly affects human health and the environment. Regulators put limits on emissions – but these generally focus on new car sales, and then they can still be tampered with. So as a commuter waiting at the side of a busy road, I don’t feel too reassured. But, when I see that clean technology goals for electric vehicles are on track, hear announcements from companies like Tesla, Thor and Volvo electrifying trucking fleets, and read about commitments by governments to support these efforts, I do feel hopeful.

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Topics: Electric vehicles, EVs, virtual power plant, Distibuted energy resources

The Case for Distribution Voltage Management

By Malcolm Metcalfe on May 24, 2018 11:25:23 AM

The California Duck Curve reveals a potential costly issue for utilities and their customers. The annual peak load appears to be continuing to grow -- because it occurs after dark when there is no solar power being generated -- yet energy sales may be declining with the growth of distributed solar generation during the day. This results in the need to continue to expand the grid, but without the sales revenue to support the added capital expense, presenting a Catch-22 that utilities are struggling to overcome.

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Topics: VPPs, voltage management, VAR compensation, demand response, peak load management, distributed energy, Thanksgiving

Energy – A Philosophical Look at Change

By Malcolm Metcalfe on May 9, 2018 8:29:00 AM

For more than 100 years utilities have supplied electrical power to their customers and have achieved this with good reliability. The principle is simple. Loads may do as they wish, but generation the supply — MUST be both dispatchable and monitorable. An operator must be able to start or stop a generator or to change capacity at the touch of a button to maintain a continuous balance between supply and demand.  On the other hand, the loads that use the electric power can be intermittent, unmonitored and subject to starting and stopping at what the system operator would see as near random times. 

Suddenly, the world is faced with a need to reduce or even eliminate emissions.

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Topics: carbon emissions, renewable energy, Distibuted energy resources, utility future

Changing to Clean Energy

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Mar 19, 2018 12:48:34 PM

Introduction

Science has told us that we must reduce carbon emissions if climate change is to be kept below acceptable limits. The transition has led us in many new directions. Most politicians outside the US believe that our energy supply must be based entirely on renewable energy. This alone creates a large issue, in that the electric grid supplies less than 20% of total energy needs. The proposal to replace all fossil fuel with renewable capacity would require a potentially large increase in grid capacity. Ironically, many politicians typically include nuclear generation among the sources to be eliminated. The one bit of good news is that the efficiency of electrical devices is often better than fossil fuel, and the existing grid operation using a generation following load approach results in a system that can deliver more energy.

The results to date have been frustrating, both in costs and performance, and there are many serious problems that may make a complete conversion very difficult. These challenges include a lack of grid and generation capacity to handle the added electrical load, as well as the operation of the existing grid with extensive distributed devices. 

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Topics: Distibuted energy resources, Solar energy, wind energy, DERMs, virtual power plant, renewable energy, clean energy, carbon neutral energy

Virtual Power Plants Explained

By Enbala on Feb 21, 2018 9:41:47 AM

Distributed energy resources (DERs) give us big opportunities to build cleaner and more reliable power grids, but to be optimally effective, those resources need to orchestrated so that they are aggregated, optimized and controlled for the grid services that are needed – precisely when and where they are needed.

The platforms for achieving this orchestration encompass both Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) and Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS). Many who talk and write about these platforms use the terms interchangeably, as if one is a synonym for the other. For those of us at Enbala who have made harnessing the power of distributed energy our life’s work, we respectfully disagree. There are foundational differences that significantly impact what can – and what can’t – be done with the DERs being harnessed.

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Topics: Distibuted energy resources, virtual power plant, DERMs

DERMS, VPPs and DERs, Oh My!

By Enbala on Jan 22, 2018 8:00:00 AM

What’s the difference – and why should you care?

There are a lot of acronyms floating around the energy world these days. It’s a veritable alphabet soup of evolving terms that are often hard to distinguish from one another.  This is especially true when it comes to distributed energy – it’s a relatively new concept in and of itself, and when the terms that define this evolving move to the grid edge aren’t inherently self-defining, the ensuing confusion complicates the equation. What’s the difference between DERs and a DERMS?  And what’s the definition of a DERMS versus a VPP?  Just as important what difference does it make? 

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Topics: distributed energy resource management systems, virtual power plant, Distibuted energy resources

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