Integration of renewable energy sources and new technologies into the electricity grid

For nearly 140 years, a network of large centralized power plants, made up of synchronized rotating generators, has been the dominant model in the electric power industry. As society clamors for more sustainable energy solutions, the utility sector and the entire energy generation, transmission and distribution system is undergoing a fundamental transformation towards the use of new technologies and a higher level of sustainability. decentralized energy infrastructure and customer participation in the electricity system.

As these trends develop, the need for standardization of requirements for effective implementations and operations of these systems also increases. The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) is at the forefront of developing industry standards that guide system-wide changes to facilitate equipment interoperability between new renewable energy technologies and the power grid. traditional. These system changes are also enabling much-needed collaboration across different industry sectors and domains, encouraging a more sustainable future for the energy industry.

To understand the evolution of the industry towards the use of new technologies, it is necessary to examine the evolution of the energy resources used to feed the network. The search for more sustainable ways of generating electricity has led to an increase in the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and the development of new technologies to provide flexibility such as fuel cells and battery storage. Solar PV and battery storage are Inverter Based Resources (IBR), meaning they have different characteristics that affect how they are interconnected and operated on the power system. Each year, IBRs account for an increasing percentage of the energy fed into the power grid, while the renewable energy they supply contributes to societal sustainability goals.

In addition to changing types of technologies, there is also a move towards greater use of IBRs which interconnect and operate differently from traditional rotary generators, and greater customer participation through demand response and the adoption of electric vehicles and other programmable electric loads. Together, all of these changes are increasing the number, type, and complexity of challenges that power grid operators face in balancing the system and delivering reliable, affordable power.

This complexity is the biggest challenge for deploying and using IBRs and other new technologies. Electric utility systems in general are already complex, and the addition of inverter-based renewable energy and energy storage systems introduces another layer of complexity as they connect to the grid asynchronously through opposed to synchronous, like traditional generators. The large-scale use of asynchronous technologies is a relatively new phenomenon and can lead to service interruptions and reliability issues if they are poorly designed.

A central set of industry standards and technology requirements, such as those developed by the IEEE SA, is essential to encourage the rapid and large-scale adoption of renewable energy. These universal requirements incorporate widely accepted rules that standardize the implementation and operation of these technologies within the network. As these requirements are adopted in systems across the industry, they enable more secure interconnection of IBR systems to the wider network and promote equipment interoperability. Thus, these new standards can make the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid easier and safer, encourage their adoption and further support industry sustainability goals.

Standards implemented in renewable energy systems and other grid technologies are also important as they allow for increased collaboration among key industry players. In the past, different industry sectors and areas such as generation, transmission, distribution, utility operations, markets and even customers have not had much interaction or collaboration with each other.

However, technological changes and technical requirements specified by new industry standards target several systems within the industry, from production to customer service. Standards also provide structures for technical training, test development, and certification; the implementation of these standards often requires collaboration between regulators and power system operators. Engaging multiple sectors at once facilitates collaboration to solve common challenges and work towards a common goal of sustainability at a level that has never been achieved before.

In addition, more resilient communication systems with fail-safes are integrated into all elements of the power system. The adoption of new communication technologies provides secure communication to and within the system, which promotes safer operation and more efficient communication between technologies at different points in the power system. This increased ability for widespread communication helps industry professionals identify and resolve issues faster, leading to wider and easier adoption of new technologies.

Organizations such as the Global Power System Transformation Consortium (G-PST) also encourage cross-industry collaboration by advocating for universal system-wide requirements. In addition to supporting the development and implementation of standards, G-PST encourages research into electrical systems and technology drivers, the development of the workforce, the deployment of open source tools and the technical assistance to system operators worldwide. IEEE SA is working closely with G-PST to implement existing standards in more power systems and to integrate additional stakeholders into its ongoing power system standards development and improvement processes.

Specifically, there are many IEEE standards that describe system-wide changes related to interoperability recommended for new technologies that are incorporated into the network. For example, the IEEE 1547-2018 standard details requirements for the interconnection and interoperability of distributed energy resources with associated power system interfaces. In effect, this standard specifies how to universally connect DERs and other new technologies to grid power systems. It provides uniform requirements for interconnection and interoperability performance, operation and testing, as well as safety, maintenance and security considerations. This standardization of interconnection requirements has led to a cross-industry systematization of the implementation and maintenance process, allowing different industries to more easily communicate and install these systems on a larger scale.

Another standard that specifies the process of implementing and maintaining these new systems within the network is the IEEE 2800 standard. This standard also focuses on interoperability and system-wide changes as it details the uniform minimum requirements for interconnection, capacity and lifetime performance of interconnected IBRs with transmission and sub-transmission systems. The standard establishes industry-wide requirements for reliable IBR integration.

As the energy industry continues to work towards a more sustainable future, we can expect to see an increase in renewable energy systems and other new technologies being introduced to the grid – as well as the need for new standards and the people who develop them.

To learn more about energy trends or to get involved in IEEE SA’s work on energy and sustainability. visit the IEEE SA Energy Practice page for more information.

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