Opus One Tests ‘Transactive Energy’ for California Rooftop Solar, Behind-the-Meter Batteries

Building a technology platform to control distributed energy
resources (DERs) like rooftop solar systems, behind-the-meter
batteries, EV chargers and flexible electricity loads is a
challenging enough task. Adding in ways to measure their economic
value as grid-balancing agents, and run real-time markets that can
entice them to respond with grid-friendly actions, adds another
layer of complexity.�

Ontario, Canada-based startup Opus One Solutions says its GridOS
Transactive Energy Management System (TEMS) can handle the task.
Now it’s putting it to the test in a
first-of-its-kind
pilot project in California. 

Over the past three years, Southern California Edison and a long
list of partners have been working on a U.S.
Energy Department grant
-funded project, dubbed Electric Access
System Enhancement (EASE), aimed at creating a “interoperable
distributed control
 architecture†for its low-voltage
grid. So far, it’s been tested on a computer-modeled fleet of
10,000 virtual DERs. 

The next step will be enrolling
customers
 in the grid-constrained
Orange County
 city of Santa Ana for a real-world test of
using price signals to charge and discharge batteries or curtail PV
output or energy consumption. Opus One’s role is to model
distribution grid power flows to identify constraints, analyze the
universe of DERs that could help resolve those constraints, and
create dispatch schedules and price signals to entice them to do
so, all in close to real time. 

“The industry term for this is security-constrained economic
dispatch,†said Ben Ullman, Opus One’s lead product manager for
transactive energy. “Historically that’s only been done in the
bulk system,†via the markets run by transmission grid operators.
But with SCE, “we’re bringing that to the distribution system
with live customers.†

Holy grail of DER-distribution grid orchestration

SCE describes the system it’s working on as “a Distribution
System Operator (DSO) platform,†a concept that’s something
of a holy grail
 in the grid edge world. It’s also been
devilishly hard
to translate into reality
 from the starting point of
traditional utility and grid operator systems, which aren’t
designed to manage the massive calculations to solve for how DERs
can help manage local grid disturbances. 

It’s taken a lot of work for SCE and its EASE partners to
solve these kinds of disconnects, Ullman said.

SCE has invested billions
of dollars in grid modernization
 to collect, organize and
analyze the data required to offer a clear picture of its
distribution grid operations. “The SCE network models are quite
detailed,” Ullman said. “SCE knows not only where DERs are and
where aggregations of DERs are, but also the capabilities of those
DERs and the hardware they’re connected to.†

Smarter Grid Solutions, another EASE partner, has contributed
important pieces of the puzzle. The
U.K.-based company
has created a platform that combines DER
permitting and interconnection processes for SCE, and assigns each
new DER a unique digital ID with a “self-provisioning†process
that connects them to SCE’s centralized distribution grid control
platform. 

Smarter Grid Solutions also provides its
distributed energy resource management
system (DERMS), which
embeds DERs with sensors and controls allowing them to respond to
local events at the feeder circuit and substation level that
centralized control platforms can’t act quickly enough to
solve. 

DERMS platforms like these can control DERs that are actively
enlisted in their systems to manage grid constraints. But Opus One
is taking the next step to model the system impacts of DER
activity, the economic costs of constraints and the value of DER
actions that can solve them, said Mark Hormann, Opus One’s vice
president of U.S. sales.

From there, the GridOS platform can calculate location and
time-specific dispatch schedules that minimize costs or losses in
the system, and set nodal prices for the cost of an incremental
unit of load from moment to moment, he said. “Getting prices to
devices, and getting them to interact in real time, is the goal,â€
Hormann said. 

Extending DER prices-to-devices from distribution to transmission
level

Regulators in California, New York and several other states are
pressing utilities to increase DER hosting capacity, measure their
positive value for the grid, incorporate them into day-to-day grid
operations, and include them in long-range grid plans and
investments. SCE has been a vanguard utility on this front, with

long-running contracts
with DER aggregators to supply grid
capacity, and more recent ones aimed at testing the
price-responsiveness of residential
solar-storage
 systems.  

Opus One’s work on New York utility National Grid’s Distributed
System Platform (DSP)
 pilot project was an early step toward
this kind of price-based dispatch system, Ullman said. “The
high-level goal was to demonstrate that location and time-specific
price signals could be passed on to DERs,†as all utilities in
New York will eventually be required to do under the state’s
Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. 

Another project with
utility Ameren
 in Missouri and Illinois built on this by
incorporating bulk transmission system values alongside
distribution grid values, in a “DER simulator†that could
assess the value of distributed energy at both scales, he said.
That experience has come in handy in enabling the final goal of
SCE’s EASE project — to find ways to integrate DERs with the
markets run by California grid operator CAISO 

Opus One’s day-ahead and 15-minute intraday optimizations work
on the same timescales used by CAISO to dispatch bulk power system
resources, Ullman said. That could include the solar PV and battery
systems being targeted for EASE’s real-world trials, or electric
vehicle chargers, grid-responsive water heaters or other demand
response-capable loads, he said.  

This could open a much broader set of DERs now outside a
utility’s reach to becoming market-based agents. SCE still has to
prove that the technology combination its EASE project is putting
together works under real-world conditions. But “as it becomes
standardized, we can roll this concept out across entire utilities
or entire markets,†Ullman said.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Opus One Tests ‘Transactive Energy’ for California Rooftop
Solar, Behind-the-Meter Batteries