Energy Positioning: Control and Economics






Project Description

Title: Energy Positioning: Control and Economics

Investigators: Prof. Daniel Kirschen and Prof. Ian Hiskens

Institutions: University of Washington and University of Michigan

The dominant power system operating paradigm is "supply follows demand", i.e. consumers are able to change their load at will but generators have to adjust their output correspondingly to maintain stability. While this paradigm has worked extremely well for over a century, two issues make it increasingly difficult to uphold:

  • Wind and solar generation are ill suited to following the load.
  • Renewable energy resources are usually located far from the load centers. This creates congestion in the network and increases the risk of cascading outages.

We believe that these two issues must be considered together because coordinated control of well-positioned and properly sized storage facilities and demand response schemes (distributed energy control resources) would not only facilitate the large-scale integration of renewable generation but would also significantly reduce the need for transmission expansion and would improve system reliability. These additional benefits could tip the balance when considering the economic case for widespread deployment of storage and fast-acting load control.

This project will develop the control technologies needed to establish an "energy positioning" operating paradigm: Excess production from renewable energy sources is either consumed directly by flexible loads or directed to the storage facilities where it is best pre-positioned for later use. Following a contingency, control on a faster timescale reallocates the distributed stored energy and the flexible demands to alleviate overloads and stabilize the system.

This project addresses the Control Architecture primary technical target described in the GENI FOA. This new way of operating the grid will contribute to ARPA-E's mission in the following way:

  • Increase in the utilization factor of the transmission grid, which will reduce the need for building new transmission line
  • Reduction in the proportion of spilled renewable energy
  • Reduction in power system operating cost and improvement in electricity reliability, which will enhance industrial competitiveness and improve quality of life.

Critical Need

The U.S. electric grid is outdated and inefficient. There is a critical need to modernize the way electricity is delivered from suppliers to consumers. Modernizing the grid's hardware and software could help reduce peak power demand, increase the use of renewable energy, save consumers money on their power bills, and reduce total energy consumption--among many other notable benefits.

Project Innovation & Advantages

The University of Washington and the University of Michigan are developing an integrated system to match well-positioned energy storage facilities with precise control technologies so the electric grid can more easily include energy from renewable power sources like wind and solar. Because renewable energy sources provide intermittent power, it is difficult for the grid to efficiently allocate those resources without developing solutions to store their energy for later use. The two universities are working with utilities, regulators, and the private sector to position renewable energy storage facilities in locations that optimize their ability to provide and transmit electricity where and when it is needed most. Expanding the network of transmission lines is prohibitively expensive, so combining well-placed storage facilities with robust control systems to efficiently route their power will save consumers money and enable the widespread use of safe, renewable sources of power.

Impact Summary

If successful, this energy positioning system would enable future use of renewable energy while reducing the burden on traditional power plants and improving the reliability of the electric grid.

A more efficient, reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions from failure, natural disasters, or attack.

Enabling increased use of wind and solar power would result in a substantial decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S. - 40% of which are produced by electricity generation.

Advances in grid software could result in new high-paying jobs in supporting sectors such as engineering and information technology.