Utilities

Resiliency through DER and microgrids: It starts with situational awareness

Among the top goals of modern electrical distribution utilities are better network reliability and resiliency. And one emerging technology offers a way to meet those goals—microgrids.

From the perspective of today’s electrical distribution utility companies, there are three types of microgrids:

  1. Utility owned and managed
  2. Customer owned and managed
  3. Customer owned but managed by a third party

So how can utilities optimize their networks and improve resiliency, especially when two of the three common microgrid scenarios entail equipment that’s not directly under their operational control?

One answer is by using Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS). At its most basic level, ADMS can deliver visibility into the current state of a distribution network and all of its connected technology and equipment.

Visibility is the fundamental prerequisite upon which smarter systems are built. That’s where it starts. That’s part of the reason why ADMS comes in at the beginning. It can deliver the situational awareness about grid infrastructure that serves as a utility’s baseline.

Once situational awareness is in place, including visibility into microgrids, operators have a common user interface to view, analyze, and report real-time status of any point on the grid.

  • This gives operators an understanding of what’s happening everywhere in their service territory and the ability to identify reliability issues and take proactive steps.
  • Situational awareness gives utilities the opportunity for operations planning, to understand and make decisions about demand management and DER and microgrid options for distributed generation management.
  • It also improves network planning with the ability to run simulations on the ideal placement of intelligent field devices, identify areas of concern with future DER connections, and defer capital investment with improved network efficiency and optimization.

And, as you might guess, this then enables improved dispatch and control. In the microgrid context, utilities seek to understand and improve control schemes. For example, a hybrid of centralized and distributed, autonomous control of these distributed assets. This includes integration with a variety of microgrid ownership structures including a growing number of third party aggregators.

The sensible strategy to face these challenges is to take an evolutionary approach. And the first step in that approach requires network modeling. Once utilities have an accurate network model representation of their distribution grid, they can then activate monitoring. Such real-time and near real-time monitoring comes from SCADA, AMI, third-party communications, etc. What follows is network analysis, control, optimization, and planning.

ADMS can be a means of reaching these goals because it’s a modular technology that can scale and extend over time. Situational awareness is the key to unlocking the benefits of advanced grid management.

Learn more about our approach to ADMS today.


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