Microgrid Knowledge – The Renewable Grid: Challenging the Status Quo – Part 2

Jim Bishop, vice president of advanced technology solutions at Ameresco, discusses complementing renewables for grid interactive loads

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed the transformation that is happening on utility grids with increasing renewable resources, the growing pains relative to the challenges of intermittency and the solutions needed for reliability and stability. In Part 2, we will focus on complementing renewables with grid interactive loads.

Solutions to stabilize the variability of renewable resources often first bring to mind the application of energy storage to smooth the output and better match grid loads. Often overlooked is managing this variability on the receiving end. Grid interactive loads can provide “relief” to better match variable renewable generation or to respond to a contingency where the grid becomes unstable and legacy renewable generation trips offline.

A grid interactive load is a building, commercial or industrial process that can adjust its energy consumption or self-generation in response to the grid or market conditions. A long used technique might be to “peak shave” to reduce demand costs, but grid interactive loads can also be deployed to impact carbon intensity or to preserve reliability. Functioning similarly to local renewable generation or storage, grid interactive loads can provide valuable grid services while saving costs and reducing emissions for building owners and occupants.

Lessons learned at the transmission and distribution level — such as wide scale demand response programs — can also be mimicked in smaller systems like microgrids for improved stability and reliability. Designed-in “intentional” grid interactive load response is less disruptive than unplanned load shed events and blackouts.

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