Example DER aggregation program structure and component interaction. Source: NRELExample DER aggregation program structure and component interaction. Source: NREL

Recent capacity growth of distributed energy resources (DERs), including residential photovoltaic (PV) systems and battery storage, could translate into services that enhance distribution grid reliability in the U.S. The aggregation of DERs as virtual power plants could benefit demand response and voltage regulation.

To glean lessons learned from such initiatives, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) used case studies of five DER aggregation projects that incorporate PV along with other energy technologies to identify common challenges and solutions for utility consideration. Challenges identified encompass distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) development and implementation, customer acquisition, DER deployment, communication with DERs and DER performance.

Utilities planning new aggregation programs are advised to:

  • develop a DERMS and find cost-effective pathways to integrate DERs with different communication protocols.
  • consider how DER aggregation will impact or align with existing DER incentive structures in order to increase customer participation.
  • work proactively with local/regional authorities to resolve permitting issues, particularly for batteries, so as to reduce deployment delays.
  • increase communication reliability between the utility, aggregators and/or individual DERs to realize grid services from DERs.
  • more accurately predict DER performance by evaluating how technology mix, operation protocols and consumer behavior may impact individual DER performance.
To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com