5 Stories You May Have Missed at Distributech

The Commercial Toll of Innovation

Renewables are making market forecasting almost as important as load forecasting for a sustainable grid. At least one editorial panel of North American utility leaders was asking the million dollar question of vendors: what is the impact of investing in all this new technology when it increases the bottom line on customer bills? Sensor costs are  down, but retrofitting an aging infrastructure with software, devices, and communication networks is more than a sticker price. These require updates every few months rather than every few decades - and doing it without raising costs - is a challenge for the traditional utility.

Things we expect to see at Dtech 2020 - more solutions focused on real-time market awareness alongside real-time situational awareness. An OSIsoft partner to watch: PowerRunner. PowerRunner evaluates the economic value of every DER on each circuit and helps companies merge commercial and operational data for strategic planning that joins capacity requirements and cost of services. PowerRunner and OSIsoft are also working with a tier one Midwestern utility to pull hourly AMI data into the PI System. From there, it is fed to PowerRunner's PI Adapter and made available to enterprise. They have an upcoming release of GPU-powered predictive analytics that they estimate will allow 2.5 million forecasts (including hyperlocal weather forecasts) to refresh in less than a minute and reduce the error in load forecasting to less than 1-2%.

Australia Federates

Down Under is the space to watch for the latest trends in distributed energy, virtual power plants, and aggregate residential storage for increased grid flexibility.    

One project worth tracking - the world's largest DERMS (distributed energy resource management system) in Western Australia - lots of sun, lots of space, a lot of nothing in between. The DERMS, run by local utility Horizon, includes 50,000 DERs over 2.3 million square miles. Earlier this year, Horizon rolled out an advanced microgrid control solution from software developer PXiSE.  PXiSE uses synchrophaser data to provide time-synchronized, coordinated, closed loop control. It's a shift from an autopilot making corrections every ten seconds to sub-second and managing that control closer to the load/power supply. 

The Renewable Data Deluge

Data management is inextricably linked to renewables, and renewables generate exponentially more data than traditional power sources. Power Factors estimates that a 1GW solar plant has 40x more data streams that need to be tracked than an equivalent fossil plant and 9x more than wind. Solar data is an undiscovered gem for controlling O&M costs, the single greatest variable cost for most utilities. 

Power Factors ties operations data more closely to business systems and analytics for a complete system of engagement to effectively manage a renewable portfolio. Using data to control O&M costs through predictive analytics means more bids and more competitive enterprises. Power Factors now has close to 23GW being managed by its cloud platform. 

renewable data deluge

After the Storm

It's no secret utilities are struggling to have the real-time situational awareness and response to keep up with extreme weather events from superstorms in Florida to wildfires in California. The less told story: what happens after the storm has passed? In the midst of extreme weather, field crews will do whatever it takes to keep the lights on. What's the hidden toll on reliability in the aftermath? It's a story to keep an eye on. 

Where to Put the Battery? 

The race for better battery storage for a more stable grid is on. But the question of where batteries should be implemented and how distributed they should be in the era of distributed energy is just emerging. The prevailing thought is to keep batteries close to substations, but at least one utility is rumored to be considering outfitting each wind turbine with battery storage in its base.