Creating optionality and mining value

Distributed energy pioneer Opus One Solutions has been on a romp. Offering a range of solutions for electricity consumers and distributors, it seems to be collecting new customers and accolades as quickly as it pushes out updates to its product line.

    In March, the US-based utility Ameren said that it would be collaborating with Opus One to roll out a state-of-the-art micro-grid to test the viability of a transactive energy marketplace – using digital currency among other innovations. Ameren’s microgrid, at the University of Illinois Technology Applications Center near the campus at Urbana-Champaign, has integrated 1 megawatt of natural-gas generation, 250 kilowatts of battery storage, 125 kilowatts of solar PV and a 100-kilowatt wind turbine.

    At DistribuTECH 2019 in February, Opus One Solutions announced the launch of its web based GridOS® Integrated Distribution Planning (IDP) product with Hawaiian Electric. “Partnering with Opus One will allow Hawaiian Electric to comprehensively identify T&D grid needs and evaluate distributed energy resource alternatives within the Integrated Grid Planning process,” said Colton Ching, Senior Vice President of Planning & Technology, Hawaiian Electric. Earlier in the year Opus One was named as a Global Cleantech 100 company.

    On April 15 it was announced that the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), would be granting $1.6 million to develop software to lower electricity costs through “the smart integration of distributed energy resources, such as solar and storage, helping to transform today’s centralized electricity grid.”

    On April 30 Opus One announced the successful completion of a year-long joint project with Portland General Electric Company, focused on Integrated Distribution Planning. By incorporating Opus One’s next generation software platform into PGE’s distribution planning process, PGE was able to demonstrate “full situational awareness” on their network. This allows engineers to understand the effects on the distribution system when adding distributed energy resources and demand response to the feeders.

    And most recently, Opus One is a partner in a microgrid service that Hydro Ottawa has announced, offering residential a solar and battery storage package. See the feature story, “Creating optionality and mining value,” elsewhere this issue.

    Opus One has become a leading example in a growing ecosystem of new companies working on distributed energy technologies that are creating benefits up and down the grid. From its base in Ontario, the company is offering technology that appears to be affecting the development of power markets worldwide. First however, it needs to be sure that the current wave of DERs and transactive energy systems is managed to benefit customers in a sustainable way.


Transactive energy and a more diversified grid

As the electric power system becomes more complex, more diversified and more decentralized, increasingly distributed applications in generation, energy storage, conservation, system response and ancillary services come onto the market, bringing with them opportunities to uncover and take advantage of efficiencies. Generators, customers, utilities and grid operators are seeking out systems and tools to improve their operations in a more distributed energy network. The Opus One GridOS is described as “a state-of-the-art, model-based toolset to optimize planning, design and management” of the utility’s grid, taking advantage of many of the utility- and customer-controlled assets increasingly entering the scene.

Hari Suthan Subramaniam Hari Suthan Subramaniam at Opus One cites the example of a power producer using his onsite generation strategically to offset peak demand charges and minimize energy costs. The Opus One GridOS provides transparency and tools that allow the utility to determine when best to use those assets for the benefit of the whole system, not just the owner, and can enable the utility to provide the right financial incentives to the owner. As a result, everyone wins. As Mr. Suthan points out, assets like storage or generation offer stackable values. Toronto Hydro may own storage resources for voltage control, for example, even though it will only be called on occasionally for that. Why not let it monetize that asset for the periods when it’s not being used for voltage control, and can be used for something else? Alternatively, the utility could make use of grid-edge assets that it can procure as a service from its prosumer customers and compensate them with a price that can be objectively defended before the regulator.

    The GridOS Transactive Energy Management application enables utilities to take advantage of numerous new opportunities. It creates a distribution level marketplace that connects DER operations to needs on both the distribution and transmission systems. An example in New York state demonstrates how the GridOS solution helps to ensure that “the right DER is paid the right amount of money for the right energy service.” As part of the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, Opus One Solutions, alongside National Grid and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), notes that it “developed and deployed the nation’s first transactive energy marketplace to create time and location-specific price signals for DER operation within National Grid’s service territory.”

    DER operations have historically been compensated through net energy metering’s (NEM) fixed, location and time invariant rates. These rates were sufficient to incentivize the first generation of DER investment by giving consumers a fixed price signal to respond to. The transactive energy concept moves the marketplace forward by aligning DER generation prices with the true and dynamic value brought to the grid. These price signals are DER-specific and contemplate both the fixed and variable costs involved in operating the ever-evolving electric grid.

    Optimizing across these various value streams ensures that DER compensation is tied to the total value the proponent brings to the grid in operational time frames. These kinds of price signals leverage Opus One’s GridOS analytics core to ensure that the instructions sent to DERs in the marketplace satisfy system security requirements.


Revolutionizing grid management and planning

Aside from opening up new market opportunities for utilities and their customers, DERs can provide other benefits to the distribution grid. However, managing and operating them within legacy systems can be difficult. So how can a utility anticipate and plan for this emerging, increasingly complex world with ever more distributed and variable energy resources? GridOS has an answer for that as well, with its related applications:

    Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) provides real-time situational awareness of networks and intelligent adaptive control of DER fleets for utilities to easily create and dispatch grid-constrained optimal schedules and setpoints to enable peak demand, voltage management, power factor correction and renewable smoothing.

    Integrated Distribution Planning (IDP) supports both short- and long-term planning objectives by delivering advanced use cases, such as optimal power flow, nodal hosting capacity, DER placement, and investment optimization.

An underlying Optimization Engine (OE) can function as a stand-alone service and integrate with almost any modern distribution management system, distributed energy resource management systems, or grid management systems to provide full optimization capabilities around asset dispatch, switch operation and more.

    So who is using these tools to improve grid planning and operations?


DERMS: Emera Nova Scotia Power (NSPI) is leveraging the Opus One DERMS for its Intelligent Feeder project to increase grid resiliency and DER penetration. The feeder incorporates one substation with a Tesla Powerpack combination providing 1.225 MW / 2.45 MWh, ten residences with Tesla Powerwall 2s (5 kW / 13.5 kWh, for a total capacity of 50 kW), and a small windfarm with three 2MW turbines (see graph for an example of how wind and load interact). In addition, fifteen line sensors providing telemetry points along the line, plus additional telemetry from a gypsum mine on the line, all feed into OpusOne’s GridOS platform.

Interaction of wind and load on Emera’s pilot smart feeder As Emera Communications Director David Rodenheiser explains, “One purpose of the pilot is to optimize the battery charge/discharge given the variable wind generation on the system (see chart plotting feeder load vs. wind production over time). We also want to better understand the value storage can provide our customers as well as operationally to the grid, i.e. peak shaving, power back-up, power quality. Additionally, operating a part of the feeder as a microgrid isolated from the main grid requires careful protection and control.”

    In providing local islanding and dynamic feeder management, Opus One’s DERMs key capabilities in supporting the utility’s objectives for the project include:

• Real-time monitoring of the NSPI feeder via wireless sensors

• Powerpack control strategies including feeder-level islanding, peak shaving, voltage management, wind smoothing and power factor correction, and storm preparation

• Safe dispatch of BESS given real-time dynamic constraints.

    By optimizing the dispatch of batteries, both behind and in front of the meter, the system allows NSPI to realize stacked benefits including feeder-level islanding for grid resiliency, voltage and power factor management, generation output smoothing to integrate the 6MW wind farm, and reduction of future capital upgrades.

    Results from the pilot will be the basis for expansion or replication of the system.


IDP: Hawaii has targeted 2045 as the date by which it will be running entirely on renewable energy.The state has already passed the one-quarter mark in 2016. The current version of the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ 2016 Power Supply Improvement Plan is a dramatic upscaling of that, targeting a 52 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2021.

To integrate and manage all this, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and Opus One Solutions are collaborating to increase levels of customer energy resources on the O‘ahu grid, the largest in the chain of islands. To give an indication of the challenges: as of March 31, 2019, the island chain as a whole already has a total of 757 MW of photovoltaic capacity, over half of it residential: 79,187 installations total. The plan is to add another 326 megawatts of rooftop solar capacity, 31 MW of Feed-In Tariff solar, 115 MW of demand response­­, 360 MW of grid-scale solar, and 157 MW of grid-scale wind resources across all the islands the companies serve. As an example of its interest in renewables, Hawaii also has some small run-of-river hydro, 38 MW of geothermal, a 120 MW thermal plant running entirely on biodiesel, and an interest in ocean-powered energy. Add growing amounts of storage among the distributed resources, and the electrification of transportation, all while controlling infrastructure costs, and one gets a sense of the complexity to be managed. Opus One’s GridOS IDP will give Hawaiian Electric’s distribution engineers the ability to evaluate optimal site locations for DERs and associated grid benefits.

    As Opus One explains, “DER integration begins with a planning exercise, where the technical challenges of managing intermittency and dynamic, two-way power flows must fit within the organizational imperatives of economic efficiency and transparent decision-making processes. To this end, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are exploring a DER planning solution that would allow the organization to quantitatively evaluate and rank solution alternatives to grid constraints. Using IDP, Hawaiian Electric can assess the value of specific assets while using accurate time-series and planned capacity information to allow for higher penetration of resources within defined constraints. Hawaiian Electric can compare and contrast multiple potential DER solutions to grid constraints that have been identified.”      

    For example, a PV installation in a load-heavy industrial environment provides more value as it feeds in during peak production hours, whereas purely residential systems feed in during the day while peak loads appear during evening hours. Here, solutions such as storage systems can help make the energy produced by PV systems more valuable. Providing a marketplace and mechanism that gives customers visibility will help them best capture value from their investments, and what types of resources to invest in.


Grid benefits

GridOS is primarily directed at distribution utilities, and even when Opus One deploys projects at the microgrid scale via its Microgrid Energy Management System (MEMS) platform, distribution utilities play a vital role. The MEMS, which can operate in isolation for local communities and DER asset owners, provides utilities in a grid connected mode an aggregated point of control to ensure higher efficiency and reliability of the overlying system. Several community microgrids are being deployed in Ontario to increase self-sufficiency and accelerate the development of net zero communities. And further down the road, the company plans to tie it together with the leading-edge innovation of Transactive Energy Management by allowing microgrids to receive pricing signals and actively participate, tying together the prices of electricity at the distribution network with the real-time controls that enable an end-to-end solution in the field.

    The shape of distribution systems incorporating transactive energy is still evolving, but one thing is for sure – we are at the dawn of seeing what technology can do to transform the sector. Having a comprehensive approach to help utilities plan and manage higher penetrations of solar energy, energy storage, demand response, electric vehicles, and other distributed energy resources seems likely to be increasingly recognized as a normal part of doing business in the electricity sector.

    — With research by Steve Kishewitsch.

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