General Session Looks at Distributed Energy Resources

Distributed energy resources, a topic receiving much attention in the energy industry, was the focus of the General Session at the PJM Annual Meeting of Members Wednesday morning.

Distributed energy resources are smaller power sources – such as storage and advanced renewable technologies – that can be aggregated to provide power necessary to meet regular demand.

Three experts looked at distributed energy resources from theoretical, environmental and real-world use perspectives and how they can work with the grid.

Richard Tabors, of the2016-Annual-Meeting-Banner-General-Session-TABOURS_IMG_1938 MIT Utility of the Future project, started with theory and the “three R’s” – real energy, reactive power and reserves. In  the distribution system, it’s clear that reactive power is as important as real power to understand local value propositions.

He laid out the platform-based market system for distributed energy resources, with multiple contacts able to buy and sell from each other on that ecosystem. He likened it to Uber or Airbnb, where entities have the ability sell or buy peer-to-peer.

He envisioned a market going forward with continuous bilateral transactions and a clearing or balancing market based on actual results rather than forecasts.

Steven Hauser, CEO of GridWise Alliance, talked about creating solutions, not just technology, including understanding and anticipating technological changes.

Hauser pointed out, as the industry focus moves from utility-centric to customer-centric, it will bring different automated technology to the distribution level. He stressed that integration is key, with regulators and the utility industry taking up the challenge of adapting to a changing model. There is a need going forward to establish clear and comprehensive guiding principles to shape grid modernization and ensure interoperability, Hauser said.

Will Agate, senior vice president of Energy Operations and Initiatives at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, demonstrated the real world impact of distributed energy resources. The Navy Yard, a large industrial/commercial park operated by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, operates its own microgrid.

Agate said the businesses at the Navy Yard are part of the industrial legacy at the facility. Instead of 45,000 workers building battleships, now it’s a state-of-the-art bakery and a Department of Energy pilot program to test micro phasors. In all, businesses at the Navy Yard employ more than 12,000 people.

To make good on its commitment to develop a modern, progressive sustainable office campus, Agate’s group produced a five-point plan. They realized the Navy Yard needed to upgrade its own aging distribution system and “not just ask PECO for another extension cord.”

The plan for the smart energy campus included a $33 million distribution grid modernization plan, containing an unregulated electric microgrid system providing on-site generation and resilience.