Opus One and a mystery utility take on DERs and grid optimization across space and time

Originally Published 7/3/2017 ‘The Scuttlebutt From Grid Edge World Forum: Utility Deals, Virtual Power Plants, and a New Startup’ | Greentech Media https://www.greentechmedia.com/squared/read/what-you-need-to-know-from-grid-edge-world-forum-2017

by Jeff St. John (https://www.greentechmedia.com/authors/Jeff+St.+John)
June 30, 2017

Let’s start with some understated — yet potentially groundbreaking — news from the utility side of the grid edge. It’s from Opus One Solutions, a Canadian startup that fits into a specific set of distribution grid software vendors (Smarter Grid Solutions, Spirae, and Causam Energy’s Power Analytics) that deal with distribution grid power flow modeling and other, more technical challenges for DER integration.

On Tuesday, the Ontario, Canada-based startup announced an interesting expansion of its GridOS software (http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/opus-one-solutions-announcesgridosr-integrated-distribution-planning-2223904.htm) suite, taking it beyond near-term operational aspects like distributed energy resource management and microgrid controls, and into longer-range planning.

And in a first for the industry, Opus One has landed a “large U.S. investor-owned utility” to use its newly enhanced software for integrated resource planning — the part of utility planning that deals with power plants, transmission grid investments, and region-wide load forecasts with decade-long timescales.

I sat down with Opus One CEO Joshua Wong and Chief Commercial Officer Keyvan Cohanim at Tuesday’s conference to learn more. While they wouldn’t reveal the name of the large U.S. utility in question, they did note that it’s a new partner for the company — a fact that would rule out National Grid, at least, which has been working with Opus One on a project in New York state (https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/national-grid-and-opus-one-launch-a-distributed-service-platform-test-for-n) since last year.

The unnamed utility has also told Opus One that its merger of DER operations and planning with its integrated resource planning is a “first of its kind” effort, Cohanim said. “You could say that utilities say they have not seen anything like this in the marketplace before.”

As far as what’s new with Opus One’s software, “what we’ve talked about in the past is around operational planning — removing obstacles, helping utilities by providing them with visibility control, optimization and valuation of DERs,” he said. “This new announcement really takes that knowledge and expertise, and those algorithms, and brings all of it into the planning sphere — how they might use DERs for non-wires alternatives, how they could defer infrastructure expense by doing DER placement in strategic areas of their grid, and helping them to develop programs to promote DER growth where it helps the grid as well as customers.”

Wong added some more technical details, such as Opus One’s ability to run quasi-static timeseries simulations — using fine-grained power flow data on circuits with significant DER penetration to forecast future power flows under different DER operations scenarios. That’s an important piece of information for utilities planning to replace the deterministic data sets of traditional grid planning with the stochastic (i.e., random and variable) effects of behind-the meter energy resources like solar PV, or based on consumer energy consumption behavior.

The one thing Opus One doesn’t do is forecast things like customer DER adoption or demographic changes that will affect long-term distribution grid investment needs, said Wong. To bring in that side of the equation, the startup is working with Integral Analytics, a company that’s been working on such projects with customers including PG&E, Duke Energy and Canada’s PowerShift Atlantic project.

With its newly announced utility partner, “since they are vertically integrated, we’re adding one more thing — how DERs impact bulk system planning and operations,” explained Wong. This merger of distribution and transmission grid needs is one of the more complex tasks (https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/grid-edge-spotlight-how-california-is-bridging-the-transmission-distributio) facing utilities, grid operators and states such as California and New York that pushing for broader integration of DERs.

We’ve seen pilot projects and policy proposals galore on this front Opus One’s new deployment may well be the first to take it on through a commercial-scale utility software deployment.