Opus One Adding New Features to GridOS, Giving Electric Utilities More Insight into Distribution Network

Company aims to provide electricity distributors added intelligence to better manage grid, integrate renewables, extend life of current assets.

by: Perry Hoffman
originally published Wednesday, October 19th by CandianGreenTech.ca

Many electric utilities have for years been adopting smart technology to optimize their distribution networks. Smart meters, sensors and software give them the ability to proactively deal the ebbs and flows of demand more efficiently than in the past. This has become further complicated, however, as an increasing amount of distributed energy resources gets connected. Opus One Solutions has developed a platform that can help electricity distributors more effectively manage their grids, integrate renewables while at the same time maximize existing assets and defer expensive investments. Dubbed GridOS, the software gives utilities much greater visibility into capacity, resources available and overall conditions of their networks in near real-time without the need to deploy a vast number of sensors.

Keyvan Cohanim, chief commercial officer at Opus One, explains in an interview with Canadian Green Tech that distribution networks “are by and large being run in a blind fashion”, which means the planning is established using historical data, not real-time information. In an old, one-way flow of electricity world, this worked. But with the proliferation of rooftop solar, growing numbers of electric vehicles and the emergence of energy storage, utilities need to be able to better respond to shifts in demand and respond more frequently to changes.

GridOS can help. Using the utility’s existing data points, such as sensors in a substation or the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system in the control room, and then running a set of sophisticated algorithms – approximately 9 million non-linear equations every several seconds – the software can provide the distributor with a constantly refreshed view of its network including voltage, current, losses, capacity, available resources and more.

A system like this is normally reserved for the largest of utilities, the ones able to invest the millions of dollars required to get this level of granularity network-wide. Opus One can do this for the smaller distributors on a feeder-by-feeder basis, making the system less expensive. And implementation times are cut down significantly because there isn’t a need for a large hardware deployment.

For example, a utility that’s seeing increased housing and business development in a rural area that’s served by an older feeder, which may not have the capacity to handle the increased demand for electricity, can turn to Opus One to get a comprehensive assessment of what’s taking place on that feeder and then be able to control resources so as to maintain grid reliability.

The control element is a key part of GridOS, explains Cohanim. If a feeder sees increased solar generation but demand is low, that feeder could reach its capacity limit.

“What we can do is adaptively control what’s happening on that feeder by either dispatching storage to help with the capacity issues or even throttle generation to make sure it’s within the safe operating limits of
the distribution company,” he says.

A third piece of GridOS is what Opus One refers to as Transactive Energy.This is optimizing those distributed energy resources to maximize reliability, resiliency, low cost of delivery and to create new revenue opportunities for utilities and customers that may already have renewable generation and energy storage.

This last element is part of new projects the company is working on with three electric utilities and for which it secured $5.4 million funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada. The total project is worth $16.4 million.

Nova Scotia Power will use the TE features in GridOS to deploy intelligence in its distribution network that will allow it to back up an entire community that has a mix of resources, – wind and residential battery storage. For Emera Maine, TE will be used in a microgrid around its headquarters that also incorporates battery storage. The technology will not only help the facility but when that storage isn’t needed for the facility or to backup the utility headquarters it can be given to the market and generate new revenue streams. The Toronto Hydro project involves TE for distributed energy resource management.

The technology has so impressed another utility that it is jumping right in with a commercial deployment. National Grid is using the GridOS software as the base for a distributed system platform (DSP) so that it can better assess and use available resources on the grid in order to prevent communities from being without power for extended periods as a result of extreme weather events.

There is more to the National Grid deployment than simply gaining a better understanding of its grid resources. TE will enable a customer, which has both generation and energy storage resources, to monetize those assets.

“In a transactive energy environment, generators of distributed energy will have the opportunity for new revenue sources by selling energy they don’t need onto a distribution market,” explains Cohanim.
In essence, the wholesale market is expanded to the distribution level.

“The wholesale market drops down into the distribution company. It mayor may not be run by the distribution utility. In some cases, distribution companies may want to do that and in other cases, it might be third parties that run the market, it could be either. But the fact that that will be a capable environment is something that we’re enabling with our technology,” says Cohanim.

The grid of the future will see intelligence deployed throughout but it must also enable customers, which are already using renewables and energy storage, to get more for their investments. GridOS from Opus One provides this opportunity.
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