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DRIVE-ing Distribution

Posted to Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the Utility Management Group
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Lindsey Rogers's picture
Principal Project Manager Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Lindsey Rogers is the Principal Project Manager in the Distribution Operations and Planning program. She manages EPRI’s Distribution Resource Integration and Value Estimation User Group...

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  • Dec 13, 2021
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The Distribution system is central to the energy transition. New resources, whether that be solar PV, batteries, or EVs, present opportunities but create concern over power quality and reliability. For utilities, being able to effectively plan for and integrate these new resources into existing infrastructure is increasingly important and complex. 

In 2016, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) launched the first iteration of the Distribution Resource Integration and Value Estimation (DRIVE) software, designed to help identify distribution system constraints and potential integration solutions. The tool can perform hosting capacity analytics and determine for any location how much of a given resource the distribution system can accommodate without causing reliability or power quality issues. 

This software allows distribution engineers to conduct scenario analysis, consider DER forecast and load growth, evaluate reconfiguration, and assess integration solutions all within the same system. Over the years, with the input of utilities across the globe and the DRIVE User Group, EPRI has refined and enhanced DRIVE’s capabilities, accuracy, and overall efficiency. Now in its third iteration, the DRIVE tool remains a key resource to plan for effective and efficient integration of new resources (load/generation) into distribution systems.

To learn more about the latest iteration of the DRIVE software, Lindsey Rogers, program manager for EPRI’s Distribution Operations and Planning program, interviewed Matthew Rylander, principal project manager leading EPRI’s research on advanced analytics and the DRIVE tool advancement, about the new capabilities and what to expect for the future of the tool. 

What are the new capabilities and enhancements in DRIVE 3.0? 
Over the past four years, the DRIVE User Group – which has worked with more than 40 utilities worldwide – helped identify enhancements to the analytics, improvements to the interface, and expansion of quantifiable hosting capacity metrics. With their input, EPRI added more than 40 new features. Some of the most notable include:

  • Inclusion of time-series hosting capacity 
  • Improved integration with utility mapping tools
  • Expanded value of DER assessments through integration with EPRI’s Distributed Energy Resource Value Estimation Tool (DER-VET
  • Improved solution speed and processing time
  • Extended hosting capacity by incorporating customer and/or grid-side mitigation
  • Improved hosting capacity with adjusted grid configuration
  • Added hosting capacity planning assessments examining multi-site resource growth scenarios

The most recent version does a lot to expand the toolset through module-based development. 

How are utilities using DRIVE today?
Utilities are using DRIVE and its analytics for numerous applications, which we’ve seen continue to grow as utilities get more experience with the tools and models required. 

In our experience, the first thing most people think of are the maps that some utilities create and share on public websites to support developers in the interconnection process. This has continued to be the outward face of hosting capacity, but there are many applications internal to the utility that provide significant value. 

For example, utilities are beginning to use hosting capacity analytics to inform the interconnection screening process internally as well. Instead of an engineer stepping through specific screens, the engineer can compare interconnection requests to hosting capacity results to get an idea of whether further review is needed.

We are also seeing an increase in utilities using hosting capacity in their planning process. DRIVE enables planners to perform wide area distribution assessments, leveraging insights on forecasted load and DER growth scenarios to pinpoint which parts of the system may require further study for planning investments or customer incentives. As new loads from electrification and DER increase, we expect this application to gain more attention. 

As we look further into the future, DRIVE analytics can be used to support the operator as well. Managing the distribution system more closely and ensuring system reliability is maintained while more resources are connected will require operators to use new analytics to manage system constraints. This is a perfect application for time-series hosting capacity.

What other modules can be integrated into the DRIVE tool? 
With the 3.0 rollout, we are expanding the DRIVE toolset with numerous modules. These modules deliver the latest analytical capability being developed across several EPRI research programs (P200, P174, P94). These tools all leverage core DRIVE functionality to perform additional analytics. I would characterize them into three major buckets:

1. Wide Area Distribution Assessments
Mitigation Assessments – ability to perform system-wide screening of potential grid limitations and mitigation alternatives to target planning studies.
Electrification Potential Assessments – ability to assess grid electrification potential based on time-based EV charging patterns including identification of capacity based on managed and un-managed charging.
Smart Inverter Settings – Ability to evaluate a range of smart inverter functions and settings to identify those most beneficial across a given area.
2. Reliability & Reconfiguration Assessments
System Configuration Assessment – ability to identify and assess new and existing system configurations for planning and operational support.
Optimal DA Switch Placement – ability to identify the locations to install new DA switches that maximize feeder reliability.
3. DER Value Assessments
Locational Value Screening – ability to identify the time and locational value of DER to offset thermal issues caused by load growth.

Where do you see the DRIVE tool going in future iterations? 
The capabilities of DRIVE are going to continue to expand as utilities gain more experience in using the analytics. We expect an increase in the need for wide-area distribution assessments, particularly as utilities seek to understand the impacts of decarbonization and electrification on the distribution grid. At its core, DRIVE will be focused on providing utilities with time-saving analytics that capture what matters most to inform operations and planning decisions in a consistent and automated fashion. 

More information about EPRI’s DRIVE tool can be found at EPRI.com/drive.
 

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
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