Storage Management Solutions: Half-Full or Half-Empty?
With the proliferation of DERs - such as rooftop solar panels, consumer and grid-level storage batteries, and wind turbines – utilities' storage network management requirements are becoming more complex.
The growing number of consumer-owned batteries connected to rooftop systems, as well as distributed storage solutions, represent a new energy source for power utilities. To leverage these resources, utilities need storage management systems that let them charge batteries when the cost of energy is low (e.g., during daylight hours on a sunny day) and discharge that energy back to the grid when energy costs are high (e.g., during evening hours in residential areas).
Unfortunately, most storage management systems today are only partially equipped to handle this challenge. This post examines some of the limitations of existing storage management solutions in meeting the requirements of the modern grid.
The Current State of Storage Management
Today, utilities can connect to residential battery storage systems and manage them either directly or indirectly. With contractual consent, the utility can leverage consumer-owned batteries to discharge energy, when needed, back to the grid. Most storage management systems are limited to basic commands to charge or discharge the battery. They were not designed to optimize energy cost based on time of day, weather and sun forecasts, usage predictions, etc.
At the grid level, utilities are also starting to deploy distributed storage solutions to improve demand response and reduce costs. These high-capacity, utility-grade battery storage systems are directly integrated into the grid. In the vast majority of cases, the utility manages each type of battery (residential and utility-grade) with a separate storage management system.
Why Current Storage Management Solutions Are No Longer Enough
As the grid continues to evolve and new energy sources emerge, modern utilities require smart management systems that allow them to streamline their grid operations and optimize energy costs. They need 360-degree visibility of all storage management systems (as well as other DERs and supporting assets) across the grid.
This includes controlling home batteries, grid-scale batteries and EVs, as well as balancing loads based on price, accommodating asset constraints and predicting consumption. To address these new requirements, utilities need a comprehensive "system of systems" that enables them to understand the larger picture of current and forecasted regional demand. This type of analysis should incorporate consumption patterns, current and forecasted load at different points in the grid, weather and sun-related forecasts, while also monitoring and analyzing energy costs. In parallel, this central management solution should take into account planned asset maintenance and be prepared to handle unplanned asset failures.
Moreover, to provide for better situational awareness, energy cost optimization and asset management, smart management systems need to integrate with utilities' existing IT and OT systems, such as SCADA, GIS and Maximo.
During routine grid operations, utilities typically charge batteries during the day and discharge them in the evening to achieve maximum cost-effectiveness. Choosing the right time to start these charge and discharge cycles optimizes energy cost. However, there are exceptional situations in which utilities need to divert from this routine. For instance, your load forecast for tomorrow calls for peak consumption; or, alternatively, a major asset shutdown is needed due to maintenance.
To sustain these scenarios, you're going to need to charge home and network scale storage batteries in advance, and may even need to charge them during evening hours (even though this contradicts the normal operational routine).
By using a smart management solution with load forecasting capabilities, utilities can determine when to charge the batteries and for how long, while minimizing the associated costs. Such a solution enables utilities to perform peak shaving and load shifting from one point in time to another to avoid high energy prices.
Bottom Line: Upgrade Your Storage Management Systems
Most current storage management solutions – both at the residential and grid levels – don't connect to the utility infrastructure and can't provide the visibility needed to effectively manage battery storage and DERs. Equally important, they lack the advanced analytics and management capabilities, such as load forecasting and peak shaving, needed to achieve optimal operational planning and grid performance.
To manage new energy sources and enable cost-effective demand response, utilities require comprehensive and integrated DERMS systems that can monitor, control and optimize the energy flow across their smart grids.