How Grid Virtualization Can Pave the Way for Renewable Energy


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Cleary and Palmer also write about the challenge of finding the right balance between supply and demand on the power grid. “Grid operators need to have an idea of ​​how much renewable energy is being produced at any given time, how much renewable energy is expected and how to react to changing production. All of this information can be difficult for grid operators to know due to the intermittent nature of renewable energy and the wide variety in the size and location of renewable energy resources on the power grid.

This is where network virtualization can help utilities get the most out of renewable sources. By incorporating tools like machine learning and artificial intelligence, utilities gain greater visibility into their networks, resulting in increased efficiency and even lower prices.

What is grid virtualization?

Cleary and Palmer explain that “there are two main types of renewable power generation resources: distributed generation, which refers to small renewables on the distribution grid where the electrical load is served; and utility-scale centralized production, which refers to larger projects that connect to the grid via transmission lines.

Utility Dive researchers suggest that virtual power plants “can replace conventional fossil-fueled power plants and enable a cleaner, cheaper and more resilient grid.” But simply allowing the participation of distributed energy resources in wholesale electricity markets will not be enough, they write: “What is needed to enable true virtual power plants is that distribution system operators (GD ) combine knowledge and operation of the distribution network with the DER. aggregation in a way that does not slow down the pace of harnessing the potential of DERs.

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Solve the challenges of integrating renewable energy sources

Writing in March, the researchers said that “an immediate priority is to build software systems to ‘virtualize the grid’. “

A few months later, Utility Dive reported that utility company AES has partnered with Google on new network virtualization technologies designed to support the company’s transition to cleaner energy. According to Kristina Lund, president and CEO of AES for US utilities, the company is considering new technologies such as electric vehicles, DERs and smart devices because “we need more sophisticated modeling tools. “.

“The partnership will develop technology to simulate and virtualize AES distribution networks in Indiana and Ohio, giving operators a better real-time view of the network and supporting long-term planning,” according to Utility. Dive. AES Chief Product Officer and Senior Vice President Chris Shelton said integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning would support ‘better investment decisions and better action on decisions. in real time ”for the network. “

The AES / Google partnership is just the latest of many projects developed in the country to support the use of virtual power plants.

Julian Spector reports for Green Tech Media that 2020 has been a year of progress for virtual power plants, citing several major developments for power distribution that use “tools like rooftop solar power, batteries, thermostats. smart, smart devices and electric vehicle chargers “.

“Aggregated resources are still far from being fully integrated into the functioning of the network,” Spector writes. “But virtual power plants have crossed several milestones this year and pushed their transaction count higher than ever before.”

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