The face of energy is changing, and alternative energy infrastructure has created a need for the grid to have digital and network management. Here are three energy trends for 2019 that Sealevel is watching.
1. Flexible Loads with DER
Consequently, DERs have turned the energy market into a transactive market where end users have also become producers. By digitally recording usage patterns, users can determine when their individual peak times occur. From there, they can “turn down” the amount of electricity or other energy delivered to their home when not at peak times. Moreover, they can further add value to their digital management by using DERs such as solar panels or battery storage. During periods of peak demand by other consumers, productive end consumers can sell their unused energy back to the utility when they have a small load.
Distributed Energy Resource (DER) systems are increasing in popularity. DER is when consumers have batteries, solar panels or other energy producing or storing devices close to load and behind the meter that contribute to the grid. One Australian utility predicts that 40% of Australians will use DER by 2027.
The pressure consumers put on the grid is called their load, and by digitally managing their consumption, they have become a flexible load. This represents an opportunity by utilities to spend less time investing in inefficient wired solutions or power stations and more time in smart energy services. It also allows for decreased stress on wired and physical infrastructure such that, in case of emergency, the effort to restore a system is less difficult.
2. Energy Monitoring at the Edge
The Grid Edge has been in development and implementation for a few years, but it’s poised to become a regular monitoring and management system as DERs sweep the energy market. As software helps manage the grid, and distribution becomes less centralized at traditional power stations, having command and control at the edge will optimize modern energy systems.
DER systems necessarily include digital demand management tools. These tools can occur at the consumer end, but they can also be operated by utility managers. Often, these digital tools are edge computing devices that monitor loads, meters, batteries and other infrastructure that indicate the demand at any given time. These devices can be configured to automate and moderate energy production and delivery to meet peak consumption and save energy during low demand times.
However, they also offer data gathering and analysis services for efficiency. This historical and real-time information gives power providers options to create grid digital twins, improving flexibility as potential overloads and failures can be predicted. Moreover, edge devices can be tailored to monitor sections of a grid, creating digital microgrids and isolating discovery and repair.
3. Hybrid Microgrids
A microgrid is exactly what it sounds like: a small grid, separate from a central power station or production source. They are usually driven by turbines or other gas engines, including diesel generators. A hybrid microgrid combines these generators with clean power sources, such as wind or solar, and battery storage capabilities.
Microgrids are often used in remote locations where it is hard to distribute power or there is no infrastructure. Microgrids are also highly advanced, operating at the intersection of sensors, meters and digital management. In some cases, microgrids are used for network protection. They generate energy in traditional utility areas when the utility network has been compromised and needs to be sectioned off.
Hybrid microgrids offer the same abilities, plus they generate energy cleanly and can be used as a DER system. They offer the most promise to rural, remote and other difficult-to-access areas. Places in need of hybrid microgrids include isolated villages, research stations and military bases. Clean energy sources such as wind and solar require less maintenance than engines. Moreover, integrated battery storage ensures that even when these energy producers fail or have downtime, the microgrid can continue to supply loads.