How A Smart Electric Grid Will Power Our Future
- Jan 26, 2022 3:13 pm GMT
A novel plan that offers partnership in keeping
The largest ever simulation of its kind, modeled on the
This kind of flexible control over energy supply and use patterns is called “transactive” because it relies on an agreement between consumers and utilities. But a transactive energy system has never been deployed on a large scale, and there are a lot of unknowns. That’s why the Department of Energy’s
“Because Texas’s grid is quite representative of the nation’s energy system, it not only enabled the modeling and simulation of transactive concepts but provided a reliable extrapolation of the results and potential economic impacts to the broader
The simulation showed that if a transactive energy system were deployed on the
Cutting the brown out
By now, most people have experienced or witnessed how weather extremes or natural disasters can wreak havoc on our current power distribution systems. That vulnerability is magnified by our reliance on a few centralized power sources and a grid system that sometimes struggles to match supply with demand. Further, decarbonization of the electric grid will mean that more and more power will come from different kinds of renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. So, avoiding sudden spikes or dips—power brown or black outs—becomes paramount.
The study findings indicate that a transactive energy system would reduce daily load swings by 20 to 44 percent. And as more electric vehicles come into use, the study, perhaps counterintuitively, showed that smart vehicle charging stations provide even larger electric peak load reductions because they offer additional flexibility in scheduled charging times and power consumption.
“A smart grid can act as a shock absorber, balancing out mismatches between supply and demand,” Reeve said. “Through our study, we sought to understand just how valuable effective coordination of the electric grid could be to the nation, utilities and customers. Working with commercial building owners and consumers to automatically adjust energy usage represents a practical, win-win step towards the decarbonization of the electrical, building and transportation sectors without compromising the comfort and safety of participating homes and businesses.”
One key component to this strategy is adoption of smart appliances and load controls. These dynamic resources can learn how to consume energy more efficiently, adjusting their use for brief periods to free up electricity for other needs. For example, instead of charging an electric vehicle in the early evening when energy demand and price is high, transactive energy participants would rely on a smart load control to delay charging their vehicle until demand is low and electricity cheaper. This approach not only reduces stress on the existing grid infrastructure, it allows utilities more time to plan for next-generation energy storage and distribution infrastructure that is currently in development.
Transactive Energy: A central component
In a transactive energy system, the power grid, homes, commercial buildings, electric appliances and charging stations are in constant contact. Smart devices receive a forecast of energy prices at various times of day and develop a strategy to meet consumer preferences while reducing cost and overall electricity demand. A local retail market in turn coordinates overall demand with the larger wholesale market. All parties negotiate energy procurement and consumption levels, cost, timing and delivery in a dynamic pricing scheme.
While this concept may seem futuristic, it is quite possible to accomplish and is already being deployed in a demonstration project in the city of Spokane’s Eco-District. Here, the research team is developing and testing a transactive energy coordination scheme and retail marketplace. The approach also includes the use of PNNL-devised transactive software agents .
An undertaking the size of
Texas’s primary power grid (ERCOT) provided the basis for PNNL’s analysis. Researchers created highly detailed models that represented the
Another important goal of the study included evaluating the impact of a new kind of mediator in the grid economy. This entity, called a distribution system operator, would be required to manage a grid that has multiple energy sources owned and operated by distinct entities, all contributing energy to the grid at different times and amounts. In addition, this distribution system operator would negotiate the transactions with customers that allow flexible load control. The goal would be to support efficient and reliable grid operation. The study confirmed the value of establishing entities, such as a distribution system operator, to manage transactive energy.
Overall, the PNNL research showed clear benefits of reimagining how the electric grid could accommodate a future where clean renewable energy is a much bigger contributor and more of our transportation needs depend on ready access to electricity.
“These findings make a strong case for investment in scaled deployments of transactive energy systems,” said
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