Keeping Green Grids Lit

University of California - Riverside

May, 2018
Keeping Green Grids Lit
Electric grid managers and utility companies need to find ways to track, measure, and value electricity consumption and production that account for the variability of electricity that comes from decentralized sources, such as solar, wind, and batteries.

Recently, California became the first state to require solar panels on all new homes, accelerating challenges to be solved by electrical engineers as they prepare for the rapid rise in input to the electrical grid. Rather than electricity coming from a handful of power plants, new systems of management have to be designed to account for the decentralized solar, wind, and battery sources—known as Distributed Energy Resources (DERs).

A new paper by electrical engineers in the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside, offers a way to account for uncertainties introduced by both the electricity market and DERs so utility companies can balance the distribution grid and find the fairest customer rates.

According to the researchers, organizations that oversee the grid, known as Independent System Operators (ISOs), cannot see the location of network DERs, as they have no direct oversight, and instead only see the transmission lines and equipment. As customers can make more electricity available to the grid during peak loads by selling off their excess electricity, they are able to exert a strong influence on the grid and market—factors the current system is not set up to anticipate.

“ISOs see the electricity up to the substation that feeds it into a consumer network, but are blind to what happens among the thousands or millions of customers after that point,” explained Ashkan Sadeghi-Mobarakeh, a UC Riverside doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering and first author of the paper.

In their paper, the team proposes two indexes that could help utilities go beyond standard market conditions, and instead identify energy feeders with proven better performance. The indexes can help utilities determine optimal bidding strategies and optimize schedules for deferrable loads.

“The indexes proposed in this paper can be combined with field measurements from smart meters at substations to measure in real-time the collective impact distributed energy resources have on distribution system reliability,” Sadeghi-Mobarakeh explains.

To learn more about this project, click here.

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