Smart Grid Tools for Integrating Distributed Energy Resources

Here at DistribuTech Conference 2017 in San Diego, one of the hot topics is how to deal with the growing number of distributed energy resources (DERs), including distributed generation, distributed storage, electric vehicles, demand response, and microgrids. Some fear the energy grid is expanding faster than today’s control methods and tools can handle.

That’s because the conditions under which distribution grids operate are being radically modified by smart meters, distributed generation, inverse power flows, new digital prosumers, energy storage, and running the grid closer to its limits. And as DERs proliferate, it will be even more critical to have advanced grid operation tools to address power harmonics, voltage fluctuations, protection issues, etc. If unmanaged, these resources can lead to grid instability and higher operating costs. However, if well-managed, DERs can be integrated in a way that stabilizes the grid and improves grid reliability.

Deploying active grid management

What’s needed is a major improvement in situational awareness, achievable with real-time monitoring and a control infrastructure based on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Demonstrating these capabilities at the Intel booth at DistribuTech, Indra is showing its Active Grid Management Architecture, which also enables demand response management, proactive operations, fast edge decision-making, hybrid central/distributed systems, and zero touch deployments.

Indra, working with Intel, developed this open architecture, featuring interoperability, high levels of modularity and scalability, and cost points lower than traditional, SCADA-based solutions. With active grid management, utilities can better manage their energy capacity.

Monitoring grid performance

Active grid management solutions need data from throughout the grid to do their job. This is where the value of IoT technologies comes in, making it easier to collect and analyze data from DERs and assets so utilities can more quickly take remedial action when warranted. With this data, grid management solutions can help Operations perform critical functions, including:

  • Optimize line voltage to minimize energy losses and line damage
  • Locate the source of sags, surges, and outages
  • Improve load balancing, restore services faster, and make safer override decisions
  • Identify the source of technical and non-technical losses
  • Lower outage investigation time by isolating the fault locations

At the conference, we show examples of IoT-based smart edge devices that can monitor voltage and produce power quality data. The devices collect, digitize, and report metrology data using high performance utility networks.

Increasing operational efficiency

Other demos in the Intel booth show solutions focused on operational efficiency:

  • Increasing worker mobility and collaboration

Ensuring field workers have the right information at the right time is no longer a nice to have, it’s a must have. Connected wearable technologies are minimizing the non-value-added movement of people by providing relevant and actionable data to workers at the right time to avoid safety hazards and improve efficiency.

  • Bringing faster, stronger analytics to utilities

As electric utility companies begin collecting more and more data from the grid, they need to understand which data is relevant, what to store, and what to ignore. Using its extensive experience in getting more value from data, SAS integrates streaming data with predictive analytics and visualization to help generate useful insights and improve decision making.

  • Monitoring substations

With the increase in variable DERs, it’s more challenging for substations to deliver sinusoidal and predictable steady-state voltage and current. Utility companies rely on substation metering of secondary voltage and current transformer circuits to detect performance issues, which can be done with a SystemCORP and Intel-developed IEC 61850-compliant merging unit solution.

  • Improving situational awareness

Intel products are powering some of the most advanced technologies that provide situational awareness of grid performance, and two are on display at DistribuTECH. Spirae, a leading provider of DERMS and Microgrid control, offers innovative tools for integrating and actively managing DERs in terms of power, energy flow, and ancillary services, thereby maximizing their value to the grid and other parties. National Instruments delivers monitoring and predictive maintenance solutions for pumps and generation transformers that demonstrably reduce risk and cost.

  • Connecting grid assets

Intel has worked with a number of vendors who offer the robust and hardened IoT gateways shown in this demo. The gateways are available to help OEMs and SIs accelerate the delivery of solutions in the energy industry, particularly with respect to distribution grid management systems. Examples include devices from AAEON, Advantech, Dell, and NEXCOM.

Pursuing new lines of business

With the help of IoT technologies, utilities can more easily participate in new market segments. One example is the offering from Alarm.com that integrates all mission critical systems in the home into a single service. Another opportunity is to create smart building management solutions for small and mid-size buildings using the Intel® Building Management Platform integrated with CANDI PowerTools*.

Visit the Intel Booth

Please visit the Intel booth at DistribuTECH to learn how IoT solutions based on Intel technology can help utilities, OEMs, ODMs, and SIs better manage DERs, as well as pursue smart home/building business opportunities.

For more information about Intel solutions for the electrical energy industry, visit to www.intel.com/energy

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