Adapting to the Flexible Nature of Distributed Energy Resources

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Tom Helmer's picture
Executive Solution Architect UDC

Executive Solution Architect for UDC and SAFe® 4 Certified Agilist (SA), Tom has over 25 years of experience designing and integrating utility solutions around GIS and related technologies,...

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  • Aug 26, 2019

This item is part of the Distributed Energy Resources - Fall 2019 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Strategic deployment of the Smart Grid is enabling an integrated portfolio of technologies and mechanisms that facilitate higher levels of distributed energy resources (DER’s) such as energy efficiency and renewable energy resources by providing increased electric system flexibility for today’s utility. While energy efficiency can be largely self-standing, flexible resources which support necessary system flexibility/reliability functions are frequently enabled by the advanced monitoring, controls and information features of the Smart Grid.

Addressing New and Emerging DER’s

New technologies, with increased flexibility, are required to manage the additional variability and uncertainty that renewable energy resources such as wind and solar introduce into the electric system. Intermittent renewable generation can reduce inertia and primary frequency response, cause large-scale changes in generation, and cause stability issues. It can affect power quality, voltage control and reactive power management at the local level.

As a result, additional flexibility is required in the various time frames relevant to utility operations of milliseconds, seconds to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days and beyond to many days to meet variability needs.

This need for increased flexibility affects long-term transmission and resource adequacy planning and makes it more costly to balance load and generation at all times. System reliability and stability and third-party contract provisions may take precedence over economic dispatch-based decisions. Strategies for addressing this can be seen in the utilities’ integrated resource plans (IRPs).

Sophisticated communications and controls available from the Smart Grid help provide the new flexible resources needed to accommodate high amounts of energy produced by variable renewable energy resources. New and emerging resources have more integrated electronic features than existing technologies.


  • Fixed and Mobile Energy Storage
  • New Types of Demand Response
  • Improved Forecasting of Renewable Energy Resources
  • New Methods of Reserves Management

Smart Grid Technologies Providing Flexibility

The Smart Grid enables flexible technologies necessary for successful integration of intermittent DER’s. Utilities require both fast acting power system solutions that respond to real-time situations and slower acting centralized analytical solutions that include forecasting and longer-term resource management.

The level of challenges depend on the amount, size, location, and voltage levels of the interconnected resources; the capabilities of those resources for dispatch and communication (and similar Smart Grid capabilities); and the ability of the grid to accept generation at multiple distributed sites and to flow power as needed in the opposite direction to than initially designed.

In preparing themselves for the increased penetration of renewable Distributed Generation (DG), utilities realize the need to investigate and apply smart grid solutions such as smart metering, smart communications solutions, distributed monitoring and control, and Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) applications.

These Smart Grid solutions have far-reaching value beyond supporting a higher penetration of DG resources. The various enabling technologies are designed to meet a range of utility operational efficiencies, reliability improvements, and customer service enhancements.

Solutions such as ADMS, for example, are designed to provide a higher level of awareness of grid status and provide methods to control and respond in more real-time fashion. This provides value in identifying and responding to outage conditions, providing more efficient asset optimization, gathering substantially more data for downstream analytic tools, and other new operational processes.

The Smart Grid enabled solution for managing all of the many diverse DER devices in a system is a Distributed Energy Resources Management System, or DERMS. DERMS is an enterprise application which provides the central control necessary to handle all of the smart DER devices throughout a distribution system by monitoring and managing the status and capabilities of each device and feeding that information into an ADMS and other applications in a more useful form.

Additionally, the value of the disparate smart grid solutions such as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or Smart Metering, depending on terminology used, DERMS, DMS, Outage Management System (OMS) and System Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) are increased through synergies created by integrating the solutions together and implementing a cohesive Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS). The integration of ADMS and DERMS technologies is critical in supporting the new requirements that micro-grids are levying on utilities.

By proactively embracing these changes, utilities can begin to shape the myriad of planning and operating approaches that maximize the potential long-term benefits to the utility and its customers of distributed energy resources.

Click to learn more about ADMS Readiness and Implementation Support or connect with us to arrange a no-obligation ADMS Assessment for your utility. 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 27, 2019

Solutions such as ADMS, for example, are designed to provide a higher level of awareness of grid status and provide methods to control and respond in more real-time fashion. This provides value in identifying and responding to outage conditions, providing more efficient asset optimization, gathering substantially more data for downstream analytic tools, and other new operational processes.

Are these tools also able to operate in a forecasting/predictive fashion at all? That is, can they not only respond in real-time but also anticipate potential issues in the moments before they happen and allow for more quickly addressing them?

Tom Helmer's picture
Tom Helmer on Sep 9, 2019

Yes, the integration between ADMS and DERMS takes advantage of the energy forecasting power of the ADMS as well to know the how much renewable energy will be available on the power grid and for how long.  This allows the ADMS to schedule and 'dispatch' the available distributed energy resources in an equitable fashion if the utility has allowed an over subscription of DER connections.

William Buchan's picture
William Buchan on Jan 10, 2020

Tom, Thank you for your post of the need for DERMS as DER pentrates the grid.  DO you think utilities are looking for one complete DERMS solution or do they expect to integrate several technologies to implement a complete DERMS solution?  Has any utility yet demonstrated a complete DERMS solution?

Tom Helmer's picture
Tom Helmer on Feb 5, 2020

William, I think the preference I've heard is complete DERMS and hopefully as a subfunction to their ADMS.  I've only seen pilots and POCs investigating functionality but nothing complete yet.  Integration with their clients' DERMS will be one of key integrations.  If it is not a subfunction of their ADMS, then that will be another key integration.

Tom Helmer's picture
Thank Tom for the Post!
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