Virtual grids are coming online

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There are projects in the US and the UK where residential batteries and solar systems are tied together to create a dispersed network of energy sources that are privately owned but can be orchestrated by a utility company to balance out power supply based on demand.

In the UK, SolarEdge Technologies, an Israeli smart energy tech company, has launched its first Battery Virtual Power Plant supporting Great Britain’s National Grid ESO Demand Flexibility Service (DFS).

Sonnen, a German battery company owned by Shell, has expanded from Germany from backup battery production to becoming a virtual power-plant business. They have been working with Rocky Mtn. and now control about 2,000 consumer batteries in Utah with a program called Wattsmart. They are now expanding into Idaho. Last fall they launched a similar plan in Calif. Our local WA state power provider has done public surveys to see what public participation would be. Maybe we will have battery backup in our future?
 
Since I keep an eye on the solar and renewable hobbyist side, I really am unsure if I could advocate someone actually laying out the money to put in battery and the equipment required to sell back to the grid. In my recent professional career I did several projects that did dispatch spare CHP power to the grid and the utilities really were hard pressed to deal with this. At least in Massachusetts, the grid infrastructure is mostly ancient and needed upgrades to the distribution system are delayed until they can get a customer on the hook to pay. On the majority of the projects I worked on, the customer wanting to export power had to pay $180K to do things like replace a copper T-1 line currently used to communicate to a substation with a fiber connection to allow the utility to control the equipment in the substation remotely. In many cases a "3VO" upgrade was needed which apparently is required to get the plant capable of running power back into the grid.

The big utilities have been bought up by multinational firms and across the board between skilled folks retiring and other skilled folks pushed out the door to displace their high paycheck, there are just not enough resources to support these upgrades., In our case, 18 months from when we filed was minimum to as much as three years and that was with constant prodding. At one of our clients, the utility put a 3 year freeze on any new large solar interconnection applications as they are so far behind. It's not like they can hire a contractor, even the contractors just can't find technically skilled folks to support the work.

Sure, a utility will hoover up a big grant and spend a chunk of it on PR for a demo project, but the reality is the utilities that are supposed to be maintaining and upgrading the grid are not ready to deal with the technology.
 
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Since I keep an eye on the solar and renewable hobbyist side, I really am unsure if I could advocate someone actually laying out the money to put in battery and the equipment required to sell back to the grid. In my recent professional career I did several projects for that did dispatch spare CHP power to the grid and the utilities really were hard pressed to deal with with this. At least in Massachusetts, the grdi infrastructure is mostly ancient and needed upgrades to the distribution system are delayed until they can get a customer on the hook to pay. On the majority of the projects I worked on, the customer wanting to export power had to pay $180K to do things like replace a copper T-1 line currently used to communicate to a substation with a fiber connection to allow the utility to control the equipment in the substation remotely. In many cases a "3VO" upgrade was needed which apparently is required to get the plant capable of running power back into the grid. The big utilities have been bought up by multinational firms and across the board between skilled folks retiring and other skilled folks pushed out the door to displace their high paycheck, there are just not enough resources to support these upgrades., In our case 18 months from when we filed was minimum to as much as three years and that was with constant prodding. At one of our clients, the utility put a 3 year freeze on any new large solar interconnection applications as they are so far behind. Its not like they can hire a contractor, even the contractors just cant find technically skilled folks to support the work.

Sure a utility will hoover up a big grant and spend a chunk of it on PR for a demo project, but the reality is the utilities that are supposed to be maintaining and upgrading the grid are not ready to deal with the technology.
sounds like the utilities need a bigger kick in the pants... I wonder how many skilled workers they could "find" if they started getting daily fines for delayed interconnections rather than more grant money
 
The problem with skilled technical help is very few schools even offer engineering programs for high voltage utility type power. Most folks get lured away by tech type work. Even with a degree, there is definitely a technical apprenticeship needed from the "old pros" and the old pros are heading out the door.
 
Does seems to me if you keep the the generated power say under 60 amps (on the 240 legs) and say less than 50% of the customers participating. The residential grid infrastructure is adequate. It then becomes a communication infrastructure issue. But with enough participants and the scheduling of battery discharges seems like an easy enough task.

Utility says this section of the grid is predicted to use xx more than generating capacity during this period.

Big batteries or generating facilities does present more of an issue. But on the smaller scale all the batteries capacity could be “used up” in very small transmission distance. Basically you’d be running you neighbors house on your battery. I share a transformer with my neighbor. My delivered 240v would power her house before it goes back through the transformer. To me that is the real benefit. No infrastructure upgrades.
 
Since I keep an eye on the solar and renewable hobbyist side, I really am unsure if I could advocate someone actually laying out the money to put in battery and the equipment required to sell back to the grid. In my recent professional career I did several projects for that did dispatch spare CHP power to the grid and the utilities really were hard pressed to deal with with this. At least in Massachusetts, the grdi infrastructure is mostly ancient and needed upgrades to the distribution system are delayed until they can get a customer on the hook to pay. On the majority of the projects I worked on, the customer wanting to export power had to pay $180K to do things like replace a copper T-1 line currently used to communicate to a substation with a fiber connection to allow the utility to control the equipment in the substation remotely. In many cases a "3VO" upgrade was needed which apparently is required to get the plant capable of running power back into the grid. The big utilities have been bought up by multinational firms and across the board between skilled folks retiring and other skilled folks pushed out the door to displace their high paycheck, there are just not enough resources to support these upgrades., In our case 18 months from when we filed was minimum to as much as three years and that was with constant prodding. At one of our clients, the utility put a 3 year freeze on any new large solar interconnection applications as they are so far behind. Its not like they can hire a contractor, even the contractors just cant find technically skilled folks to support the work.

Sure a utility will hoover up a big grant and spend a chunk of it on PR for a demo project, but the reality is the utilities that are supposed to be maintaining and upgrading the grid are not ready to deal with the technology.
In Maine they would rather spend money on ad campaigns than invest in infrastructure, and then continue to pass those costs onto the customers. Consumer owned utilities can't come soon enough.
 
The problem with skilled technical help is very few schools even offer engineering programs for high voltage utility type power. Most folks get lured away by tech type work. Even with a degree, there is definitely a technical apprenticeship needed from the "old pros" and the old pros are heading out the door.
And why is that? It's almost like nobody has any reason to invest in training new workers..🤔
 
The problem with skilled technical help is very few schools even offer engineering programs for high voltage utility type power. Most folks get lured away by tech type work. Even with a degree, there is definitely a technical apprenticeship needed from the "old pros" and the old pros are heading out the door.
Maybe, but I think you're short-cutting the problem. My undergraduate university offered a program geared toward power utilities, but very few students chose that path, as the earning potential is roughly 30-40% of what you can make with similar work in other EE disciplines. Why would I want to work for a utility co for (maybe) $100k, when I can just as easlily earn $250k+ doing RF/microwave engineering for a defense contractor? Power/utility tracks are being eliminated by universities due to lack of interest and job opportunity, not the other way around.
 
Locally, based on the survey I got, it looks like the utility definitely intends to sweeten the pot knowing that part of the battery's capacity and cycles will at times be used by them.
For the Rocky Mtn. Power Wattsmart program the incentives are:
• Upfront cash for program enrollment up to $600 per kW (based on battery capacity available for discharge) plus an annual bill credit.
• Ongoing annual bill credit of $15 per kW starting in year two of the program. The annual credit will be divided and applied equally to the monthly bill.

It's a 4yr contract and the battery must be charged by on-premise solar. I'm not sure how this works out in cloudy winter months.
In return, you get the ability to run the house for xx hrs. a day off the grid and backup power during outages.
 
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Does seems to me if you keep the the generated power say under 60 amps (on the 240 legs) and say less than 50% of the customers participating. The residential grid infrastructure is adequate. It then becomes a communication infrastructure issue. But with enough participants and the scheduling of battery discharges seems like an easy enough task.

Utility says this section of the grid is predicted to use xx more than generating capacity during this period.

Big batteries or generating facilities does present more of an issue. But on the smaller scale all the batteries capacity could be “used up” in very small transmission distance. Basically you’d be running you neighbors house on your battery. I share a transformer with my neighbor. My delivered 240v would power her house before it goes back through the transformer. To me that is the real benefit. No infrastructure upgrades.
Keep in mind that unlike plumbing, transmission lines do not have check valves in them. So power on the 240 VAC side of the transformer does not stay there, if there is demand for power on the other side of the transformer, the power will get transformed to the high voltage to the neighborhood voltage and possibly if it makes it to the substation, the substation voltage. Line techs ground the lines from stray voltage before working on them already in case someone has a cheater cord on a generator but that is supposed to be secondary protection not primary. I had one project that got delayed several months as there were other grid tied PV systems on the same circuit. They were worried that our big generator would create a clean enough waveform that the gird tied units would not see a grid fault and keep online even though the 1920s switchgear at the utility substation would trip.

What you may be thinking about is microgrid where all the houses are all on one circuit that is ultimately connected to the grid. Assuming there is generator or a grid battery to deal with transients, the neighborhood can keep its power on by having the utility breaker fail open when it detects a utility fault (or the utility withdraws a signal from a Direct Transfer Trip relay.

I have similar setup for my house. If the utility fails, I flip a couple of switches and run off my batteries. Once the local microgrid is established, then the three independent solar arrays that tripped with utility loss will see a clean enough power signal that they think the grid is back and start backfeeding my electrical system in addition to the battery. If the power demand in the house is less than generation and the battery is fuilly charged, then the controller raises the frequency of the local grid power and the grid tied inverters go off line as they detect a "grid fault" due to out of range frequency. The system will stay that way until the battery starts to discharge and then the controller will drop the frequency again and the grid tied inverters will go back on line. There is also a 9 KW kubota diesel that will kick on if the battery gets discharged below a low setpoint. I do not export and would need to buy siome expensive automated transfer switches on my end and its likely that the utility would need me to install a Direct Transfer Trip device and signal to keep me from backfeeding the gird when they did not want me to. The Mass Save program will not deal direct with consumers, they sign a contact with an agregator that has compatible equipment in homes and they somehow control their specially designed equipment in the house to dispatch power. In my area the cable company went cheap on internet and did not put backup power supplies on their system so when the power goes down the internet goes down so that is not a great way to send signals.
 
Keep in mind that unlike plumbing, transmission lines do not have check valves in them. So power on the 240 VAC side of the transformer does not stay there, if there is demand for power on the other side of the transformer, the power will get transformed to the high voltage to the neighborhood voltage and possibly if it makes it to the substation, the substation voltage. Line techs ground the lines from stray voltage before working on them already in case someone has a cheater cord on a generator but that is supposed to be secondary protection not primary. I had one project that got delayed several months as there were other grid tied PV systems on the same circuit. They were worried that our big generator would create a clean enough waveform that the gird tied units would not see a grid fault and keep online even though the 1920s switchgear at the utility substation would trip.

What you may be thinking about is microgrid where all the houses are all on one circuit that is ultimately connected to the grid. Assuming there is generator or a grid battery to deal with transients, the neighborhood can keep its power on by having the utility breaker fail open when it detects a utility fault (or the utility withdraws a signal from a Direct Transfer Trip relay.

I have similar setup for my house. If the utility fails, I flip a couple of switches and run off my batteries. Once the local microgrid is established, then the three independent solar arrays that tripped with utility loss will see a clean enough power signal that they think the grid is back and start backfeeding my electrical system in addition to the battery. If the power demand in the house is less than generation and the battery is fuilly charged, then the controller raises the frequency of the local grid power and the grid tied inverters go off line as they detect a "grid fault" due to out of range frequency. The system will stay that way until the battery starts to discharge and then the controller will drop the frequency again and the grid tied inverters will go back on line. There is also a 9 KW kubota diesel that will kick on if the battery gets discharged below a low setpoint. I do not export and would need to buy siome expensive automated transfer switches on my end and its likely that the utility would need me to install a Direct Transfer Trip device and signal to keep me from backfeeding the gird when they did not want me to. The Mass Save program will not deal direct with consumers, they sign a contact with an agregator that has compatible equipment in homes and they somehow control their specially designed equipment in the house to dispatch power. In my area the cable company went cheap on internet and did not put backup power supplies on their system so when the power goes down the internet goes down so that is not a great way to send signals.
Is this is with a Sunny Island inverter?
 
I don’t see these virtual power plants as a grid backup if for whatever reason the grid goes down. I see them as load management tools that can replace or reduce reliance on peaking plants and or reduce costs during peak hours.

The whole idea of electric co ops could fit in the this idea of distributed generation. We need a deregulated market for that to work. My only choice is Duke or Duke. They just proposed a 17% residential increase with a 10% commercial.
 
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BTW, this article popped up on Yahoo about the difficulties I was discussing earlier.

 
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The utility Eversource in New England has a pretty good storage incentive. I know 2 people that have received between $1400-1800 a year from this program. You sign for 5 years and the way the math works out is after the 5 years is up your payments basically bought the battery. Since powerwalls and other batteries have a 10 year warranty you prestty much get a free battery with a 5 years left on the warranty.

Seems crazy they can pay these prices but during the peaks in summer a lot of oil generation has to fire up here in New England. The electricity from those plants is like 400 times normal market prices. I have seen stats where New England used like 40 million gallons of fuel oil for a few day heat wave.

I think the program is only valid with solar and Tesla and others do take a small cut of the incentive for managing the program.

I looked into it but I am grandfathered into an old net metering plan from 7 years ago. I have 1 to 1 net metering with a buyout/reset on April 1st. Electricity in CT is currently .35kwh.

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In Maine they would rather spend money on ad campaigns than invest in infrastructure, and then continue to pass those costs onto the customers. Consumer owned utilities can't come soon enough.
Luckily I've lived in areas with electric co-ops. We have had management problems and that led to service problems but overall the system works well. I still get a check every year from the co-op I belonged to in another state and I haven't lived there in almost 30 years. They had a redistribution plan for profits.
In the case of the co-ops in my area they were created because people wanted electricity and no company would invest to run it in rugged rural areas.
 
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I don’t think I will ever see any incentives here in NC. And might as well completely write off Florida and Texas. That’s 60+ million people. Maybe the finically will work at the corporate level and other will join. But as large scale storage solutions become cheaper and more available I don't see how user owned systems can compete on a cost basis
 
Luckily I've lived in areas with electric co-ops. We have had management problems and that led to service problems but overall the system works well. I still get a check every year from the co-op I belonged to in another state and I haven't lived there in almost 30 years. They had a redistribution plan for profits.
In the case of the co-ops in my area they were created because people wanted electricity and no company would invest to run it in rugged rural areas.
Same here, I’ve always had the same co-op which covers a lot of rural Michigan. They’ve always been good, and I’m thankful for that because I hear horror stories about other electric companies. I hope they’re always around.
 
There are a few coops in Maine, but they don't service my area.