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How Behind-the-Meter Operations Can Help to Manage Loads

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Nowadays, utilities have realized the benefits available from behind-the-meter (BTM) assets in load balancing – particularly energy storage and electric vehicles (EVs).

After a February outage, Portland General Electric announced it has been testing projects that deploy customer based energy storage to increase resilience during storms and emergencies.

Third-party aggregators are also now presenting BTM assets to ensure grid stabilization and improve performance during shortages. For example, in August, a network of home microgrids and networked home appliances controlled by OhmConnect provided 220 MWh to the California Independent System Operator as a power resource during rolling blackouts.

A Texas study, recently published by Pecan Street: “Behind the Meter Storage and 4CP in Texas,” demonstrated the benefits and challenges of deploying customer-sited storage and EVs in Austin Energy’s territory under ERCOT’s 4 Coincident Peaks (4CP) reduction program, which creates incentives for utilities to reduce their peak load.

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The study, which was conducted in 2019, had mixed results that underlined some of the challenges — such as high temperatures that boost the operating temperature of energy storage systems beyond manufacturers’ specifications — that can be addressed in future projects, in Texas and elsewhere.

 

Microgrids can Assist with Energy Saving

 

BTM microgrids that include both EVs and energy storage can, in addition, be used to reduce utility load, provide resiliency, balance the grid, and cut utilities' costs.

“Our research found that behind the meter battery storage can result in significant savings for utilities. Microgrids can also reduce load during critical peak events, potentially at an even greater scale than standalone battery storage,” said Pecan Street’s CTO Scott Hinson.

The study revealed that using BTM batteries and EVs during June, August and September 2019 cut Austin Energy's peak load by around 40 kW – or $2,400 saved over three months at $60 for each kW saved.

There were significant issues – for example deploying batteries on extremely hot summer days – if they were mounted on the outside of customers' homes they would be outside their operating parameters, according to manufacturers' specifications. This was worsened if the residents cut down trees that shaded the units. Batteries  also need to be charged before peak periods, or they will add to the problem, rather than reduce it.

In the summer and fall of 2019 in Texas, Pecan Street tested seven on-site residential batteries and one bidirectional EV (based at Pecan Street's laboratory), which adds up to 45 kW of dispatchable energy which could reduce Austin Energy’s load during peak events, according to the report.

This was part of Austin Energy’s Austin Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar Photovoltaics (SHINES) program, which plans to incorporate a new financial stream for solar and storage using a model developed for grid, commercial and residential applications. The scheme includes two utility-scale energy storage systems, multiple systems deployed at residential and commercial sites, smart inverters, real-time data feed, a distributed energy resource optimizer and a bidirectional EV based vehicle-to-grid component.

Funding comes from federal, state and city sources, including the US Department of Energy Solar Energy Technology Office, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a New Technology Implementation Grant and Austin Energy.

 

Overall Results from the Study

 

The project goal was to understand the costs and benefits of residential, commercial and utility scale battery systems, according to the report. The project evaluated six battery control applications, analyzing market value, reliability and customer benefits. For market value, the applications studied were utility peak load reduction, day ahead energy arbitrage and real time price dispatch.

For reliability, the project looked at voltage support and distribution congestion management applications. To determine commercial customer value, the project analyzed monthly demand charge reductions.

The study provides valuable information for utilities and BTM asset providers that can be used to cut utility costs, boost resilience and support the grid.

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