Navigant Research Blog

In the Energy Cloud, Software Is King

Alex Eller — July 27, 2016

Energy CloudDistributed energy storage systems (ESSs) may present the most challenges and opportunities for both distributed energy resources (DER) developers and grid operators. Recent industry partnerships and product developments are highlighting the growing role that ESSs can play in the emerging Energy Cloud. These new partnerships seek to provide a solution that can make distributed ESSs much more attractive to utilities as an asset, rather than a new challenge to deal with.

The proliferation of DER presents challenges to utilities, which typically have limited visibility and control over the edges of their network. Distributed ESSs can provide the backbone of a highly dynamic and two-way power grid, acting as flexible sources of both load and generation to match intermittent generation with fluctuating demand. However, ESSs on their own can only provide minimal value to the grid; the key is in the advancing software platforms that enable distributed storage to act as the microchip of the Energy Cloud.

Emerging Alliances

While many leading distributed storage vendors have developed their own software platforms to manage an aggregated fleet of systems, several new partnerships are taking software offerings to the next level by bridging the gap between these independent resources and utility control rooms. Distributed storage provider sonnen and grid software provider Enbala Power Networks recently announced an agreement to jointly offer a distributed energy aggregation and control platform to utilities. The companies see utilities benefiting from this offering through an enhanced ability to handle the unpredictability of distributed renewables being deployed on their network. Their solution will also allow for the creation of virtual power plants (VPPs) to help improve overall grid stability and resiliency.

A similar partnership was recently announced by storage vendor Advanced Microgrid Solutions and software provider Opus One. Through the coordination of distributed storage systems and real-time grid level energy management, the companies will offer utilities a greater degree of distribution grid visibility, control, and optimization. This partnership allows each company to focus on its core competencies while offering utilities a solution that solves several of their issues and enables the grid to handle greater amounts of DER.

Software Is Key

These new industry tie-ups support the emerging trend that both energy storage management software and coordinated grid management software will be crucial to establishing a network saturated with DER. As these diverse and often unpredictable resources continue to be installed, it becomes increasingly important for grid operators to have visibility and control over what’s happening at each level of their network. Both utilities and DER vendors recognize that the optimal integration of these new grid assets will require collaboration among various stakeholders.

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