Flexitricity: smart grid technology sparks innovation in aggregated generation
28 June 2011, Gas, Electricity
Demand-side response aggregation has been around for some time. A weather forecast and a rolodex of phone numbers was all it took to coordinate a roster of willing and able major energy users (MEUs) to moderate their usage at peak times, contributing to the balancing of the network and the financial benefit of all concerned.
Less common, and technically more challenging, is coordinating a fleet of small on-site standby generators and combined heat and power (CHP) units spread across a number of businesses. If the technical and operational challenges can be overcome, these units can make a significant contribution to balancing the grid when there is a weather-related surge in demand, or if there is a problem causing a large generator to come offline.
Flexitricity is a UK company that has tackled the challenge, and by leveraging innovative engineering solutions and smart grid communications technology it can provide meaningful reserve services to the National Grid, harnessing the capacity distributed across a range of sources.
Flexitricity offers a revenue stream to its clients through the contribution that can be made to National Grid's short-term operating reserve. A secondary, but potentially more significant benefit is the potential cost saving to MEUs through Flexitricity's triad management service, which essentially helps clients to reduce charges by way of a strategic reduction of demand on days of the year when demand peaks.
The approach is not intended to provide a baseload source of supply; however, it can avoid the need for older coal or oil fired generation that would only be required for reserve purposes.
Company founder Dr Alastair Martin recently outlined the need for distribution system operators (DSOs) to develop common performance standards, audit procedures, and automation for smart grid services to allow demand response to play a greater role in reducing carbon emissions. Dr Martin also called on DSOs to reduce the barriers to grid connection for embedded generation, and to provide better advice to allow embedded generators to increase the flexibility of the response service they can provide.
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