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EPRI Podcast: Key Is Integrated Resource Planning

EPRI Podcast: Key Is Integrated Resource Planning

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2017
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Flexibility, electrification, distributed solar, and smart inverters are familiar terms in today's utility environment, but they are of particular relevance to integrated resource planners.

EPRI's Mark McGranaghan, Vice President of Distribution and Energy Utilization, touched on these topics, and a few more, in our latest EPRI Unplugged conversation.

According to McGranaghan, the variety of new issues related to renewables and demand response have a one-two punch. First, how they affect traditional generation resources, and then, how they affect the transmission and distribution system when dealing with changes in generation. Planning becomes a particular challenge.

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"The renewable resources, such as wind, are very competitive now with other generation resources. But those resources may not be in a convenient place, so we need more new transmission to get that generation, that power, to where the loads are," he said.

On February 12, 2017, grid operator Southwest Power Pool reported that wind supplied fifty-two percent of electricity that day, with no reliability issues. That is a record in the U.S.

McGranaghan said this level of wind integration demonstrates that the U.S. grid can accommodate renewables. He added that similar numbers have been achieved in Germany and Ireland.

The key is predicting wind generation accurately and knowing the needs for other generation on the system, as well as how the transmission system should operate to accommodate the flows. McGranaghan said the U.S. can manage it. The problems occur when wind is forecast for fifty percent in an hour but actually shows up at thirty percent, without other generation lined up to be online at the time.

"Then we really start scrambling to keep the system working," he added. "We're getting more confident in forecasting wind. I think solar is an area that is probably the next challenge in forecasting. It is a little more difficult to get the variations forecast correctly for solar in general."

EPRI's Integrated Grid Benefit-Cost framework outlined the kind of analysis needed to integrate distributed resources. Substantial work continues in specific research programs dedicated to transmission requirements, flexibility requirements, and distribution system management for distributed energy resources (DER).

Another important concern is having the right standards in place. What are the basic requirements we need to interconnect that DER technology with the grid?

"We've focused on safety, maybe at the expense of interoperability: when in doubt, just get off the system. Now that distributed generation is becoming high penetration, we need to refine that to, well, don't get off the system all the time, because if you all get off the system it's going to create other problems," said McGranaghan.

The main standard, IEEE 1547, is undergoing a revision, with a draft being released

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