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Renewables challenging your grid’s stability? There’s an app for that.

Posted to PXiSE Energy Solutions in the Digital Utility Group
image credit: PXiSE
Becky Wheeler's picture
Head of Marketing PXiSE Energy Solutions

Becky is simply a story-teller. But from a corporate point-of-view, she has more than a decade of experience in start-up, nonprofit, and global publicly held company environments spending the...

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While other industries are using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and high-speed communications technology to improve the way we do things, the utility industry is still essentially operating on DOS. We’re shuttling electrons around like an early version of Pong while children communicate using apps that enlist sophisticated algorithms to keep them glued to their phones. 

 

Managing today’s power grid, with its influx of distributed energy resources like wind and residential solar, plus new demands like EV charging and data centers, can be as stimulating as the latest Super Mario release. Forget analog switches and delayed response times—with the right software, grid operators have all the data and tech at their fingertips to navigate today’s grid challenges and make it to the next level with the lights still on. 

 

Today’s grid requirements 

Grid management is admittedly a little more complex, with significantly more severe consequences, than a Game Over screen on a video game. But the grid has been around for over 150 years and it is high time electrons receive a well-deserved upgrade from their analog life.  

 

What does that look like? Ideally, today’s grid should be managed digitally by a software-based platform that features: 

  • increased visualization and control of the power system more accurately with improved data analytics 
  • server- or cloud-based technology that makes real-time and historical data instantly accessible to users wherever they are, providing end-to-end visibility 
  • individual and central monitoring and control to support distribution grid operations, moving beyond conventional SCADA technology 
  • ramp control and frequency regulation to ensure assets like wind and solar farms can stay connected to the grid without tripping off-line, despite fluctuations in frequency 
  • control over any mix and any percentage of renewable energy by using an optimal amount of energy storage. 

 

When it comes to improving grid management, perhaps the most important feature of a software-based solution is that it is less expensive than conventional infrastructure upgrade approaches, due to reduced hardware requirements and quicker, less labor-intensive integration.  

 

Responding to real-time demand changes 

The modern grid needs to respond in real time to fluctuations caused by events like changes in weather and consumer demand. When energy resources are decentralized, such as with residential solar PV panels, control centers must coordinate, aggregate, and distribute power based on thousands of data points—a challenge that software is ideally positioned to solve. 

 

Using synchrophasor measurements and high-speed communications software, we can operate renewable energy and grid systems at a level that is a quantum leap beyond the analog way most grids are operated today.  

 

  • Phasor measurement units (PMUs) provide real-time data about the condition of the grid up to 60 times a second – faster than the blink of an eye, and 23,900 percent faster than conventional SCADA systems, which provide the data only once every four seconds. PMU measurements record grid conditions with great accuracy and offer insight into grid stability or stress. 
  • Synchrophasors are powerful, yet underutilized time-synchronized numbers that show the magnitude and phase angle of the sine waves in electricity and are time-synchronized for accuracy.  

 

There’s an app for that 

Utilities are used to controlling power inputs and outputs—ramping up production during anticipated peak periods and throttling back when demand slows. The addition of renewables into the energy production mix has introduced new power variables and fluctuations that can destabilize the grid and cause equipment-damaging variable power frequencies.  

 

To cope with the fluctuations, energy producers resort to strategies such as turning off wind generation assets and dumping excess solar power into the ground, because turning to a fossil-fuel generator is easier than manually managing renewable assets in real time. It’s an analog way of thinking, which was necessary before the tech existed to manage distributed energy resources and battery storage differently.  

 

Today, there’s an app for that.  

 

With PXiSE’s software, grids now have vastly expanded functionality, control and analytics to dramatically improve the integration of renewables. A 100% clean energy future is closer than you think. 

 

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PXiSE Energy Solutions has an ACT for that. 

The Active Control Technology (ACT) platform enables PXiSE to deploy its software in any part of the electric grid, from controlling small energy resources behind the meter, to centralized and renewable generators in a large grid. The platform connects sensor-based data and operations to handle process efficiency and resource management. Learn about PXiSE’s renewable power plant control, microgrid control and DERMS solutions at PXiSE.com. 

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PXiSE Energy Solutions
PXiSE (pronounced ‘pice’) offers real-time and distributed grid control solutions that unlock the potential of distributed generation to improve reliability and increase renewable energy output while helping ensure system balance and power quality.
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 2, 2021

The modern grid needs to respond in real time to fluctuations caused by events like changes in weather and consumer demand. When energy resources are decentralized, such as with residential solar PV panels, control centers must coordinate, aggregate, and distribute power based on thousands of data points—a challenge that software is ideally positioned to solve. 

I love this-- hardware creating some new challenges, but software being able to mitigate them successfully!

Matthew Knott's picture
Matthew Knott on Aug 12, 2021

This is a good point. It's time the hardware stops creating challenges. With capabilities to work more in concert than in conflict, infrastructure with fast, yet accurate response to control signals will further increase flexibility and the potential of optimizing grid operations. The visibility and control in the software platforms are only as effective as the data accessible (garbage in, garbage out). Sensors / PMUs down to the distribution level bring the visibility, but electromechanical equipment (regulator, capacitor banks, LTCs, etc.) will struggle to keep up as we make this transition. Smart inverters, though faster and potentially more effective, are often not utility-owned at the edge which comes with its own complexity (assuming the inverters are at the right location and are available at the time needed). It's time for the hardware/control capabilities to meet today's software functionality enabling a digitized, decarbonized, decentralized grid as opposed to the software admirably finding a workaround - providing utilities with the virtual reality headset vs an Atari "pong" controller. 

Manish Murudkar's picture
Manish Murudkar on Aug 8, 2021

A nice tool to have in your pocket when you are on the go and still care about how your grid is performing especially your distributed resources under unfavorite weather conditions.  

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Aug 17, 2021

No doubt that technology nowadays if very powerful and flexible. The challenge is pulling all of the pieces together and then building the data models that help utilities better understand what is happening on their networks. The process does involve trial and error, so patience can be required. 

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