Industrials and the utility: standards for interconnection save money

There will be greater interest and need to interconnect distributed energy resources with the local electric utility.

08/28/2012


power linesAs industrial and large commercial facilities continue to make use of distributed energy resources (DERs) for reliability and sustainability, there will be greater interest and need to interconnect those resources with the local electric utility.

The industrial sector has many scenarios that would call for such an interconnection.

An industrial facility-a small manufacturing facility, for instance-may have an agreement with the utility for differential rates, requiring coordination of the DER operation with fluctuating pricing situations. DERs might also need to be brought on-line in response to a utility contingency. Another example might be a large petrochemical facility with its own power generation and distribution, including substations, distribution circuits, and generation facilities. Those DERs could include natural gas-driven micro-turbines, diesel generators, solar photovoltaics, and/or energy storage capabilities. At times those resources could provide power back onto the grid, producing revenue for the industrial owner.

In these scenarios, the facility will have a load-shedding agreement with the local utility or a power purchasing agreement for when they supply power back onto the grid. As a requirement of such agreements, the local utility will typically require certain functions, features, and communication that they need for that interconnection with that industrial facility. The utility may also require electrical system visibility and even some control functionality inside the industrial facility's electric power system, including generation control and substation configuration.

This is where the IEEE 1547, Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems, can identify for the consulting engineer what functionalities need to be in the control systems.

The base standard in the IEEE 1547 series is about DERs and it lays out the agreements between the electric utility sector and the industrial or the DER sector, so that the industrial customer doesn't have to go utility by utility negotiating their own agreements. That would be very important where, for example, an industrial customer has facilities in many different locations, even different states. Using IEEE 1547, the engineer can devise a common approach to deal with the different electric utilities in multiple states.

Thus IEEE 1547 simplifies the approach for the industrial facility and provides a number of benefits. It allows them uniformity in purchasing equipment, which provides economies of scale. It allows them to establish standard operating procedures across multiple facilities, which benefits training efforts and operations and maintenance activities. Employees that work on multiple facilities will recognize and understand the common features, saving money, and time and manpower. The consultant benefits from having a repeatable design.

By using the IEEE 1547 series, the engineer has a starting point that will work for him in any of the fifty states that he or she works in. Whatever utility you're working with, IEEE 1547 gives both parties a clear, agreed-upon starting point for an interconnection. You don't have to re-invent a solution from the ground up. Recognizing the value of such a standard, the IEC has recently announced an effort to produce an IEC document based completely on IEEE 1547.

The fact that the international community is going to follow the IEEE 1547 series should lend the engineer and his or her client a certain degree of confidence that they're on solid ground in anticipating the future, if you will. Some call this "future-proofing," which is a pretty strong term. But in this case, as in others involving standards, if you base decisions on a standard accepted here and around the world, that's likely to stand you in good stead over time. Standards may get tweaked from time to time, but by design they are backwards compatible, so whatever you've done based on a standard is likely to continue working and doesn't face the threat of, say, becoming a stranded asset-at least not to the degree that's true for one-off solutions.


Sam Sciacca, PE, senior member of IEEE, president of SCS Consulting LLC, Winsted, Conn.Sam Sciacca is an active senior member in the IEEE and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in the area of utility automation. He has more than 25 years of experience in the domestic and international electrical utility industries. Sciacca serves as the chair of two IEEE working groups that focus on cyber security for electric utilities: the Substations Working Group C1 (P1686) and the Power System Relay Committee Working Group H13 (PC37.240). Sciacca also is president of SCS Consulting.



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