Finalists for national “Plug & Play DER Challenge” announced


The US power grid is becoming increasingly complex as more distributed energy resources (DERs) – solar, wind, energy storage, connect to the grid.

Enabling this growing ecosystem of resources and devices to work together in a coordinated manner is, according to the US Department of Energy (DoE), vital to the country’s nationwide grid modernisation efforts.

In August 2018, the DoE’s Grid Modernisation Laboratory Consortium (GMLC) alongside the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology amongst others, launched the “Plug & Play DER Challenge,” a call for proposed concepts to develop interoperability solutions to lower integration costs, increase system performance, and enhance capabilities. 

This past week saw the challenge’s finalists demonstrate their solutions at the North America Smart Energy Week (NASEW) event in Salt Lake City, Utah. NASEW attracts more than 19,000 energy industry professionals and hundreds of companies in the smart energy space.

“The Internet-of-Things offers greater power system operational efficiencies and resilience from the integration of end-user technology advancements in renewable generation, storage, electric vehicle, and buildings controls,” said Kevin Lynn, co-chair of the Grid Modernisation Initiative. 

“We celebrate the three teams of industry visionaries who successfully demonstrated how their innovative specifications allow any type of DER to connect and operate with the electric grid simply and affordably.”

For the past three years, a consortium of National Laboratories called the GMLC, with sponsorship from the DoE’s Grid Modernisation Initiative, has collaborated with industry stakeholders to develop a strategic vision and practical pathway for achieving broad interoperability for energy-related assets, technologies and devices.

More than 20 individuals and companies shared abstracts, which resulted in nine written concepts.

Those organisations had the opportunity to present their ideas and collaborate, resulting in the formation of three teams competing in the demonstration phase of the challenge.

The teams devised concepts and specifications for interfaces that support DER integration and then developed proposals for demonstrating the integration process with hardware and software.

Teams presented initial concepts, and a GMLC panel selected the three finalists. The three submissions met the challenge criteria for an interface mechanism to ease DER integration and form the basis of an Energy Services Interface (ESI) that could universally integrate different DER technologies with the electric system.

The finalists included representatives from Ecogy Energy, which finances and manages distributed generation assets for traditionally underserved entities including affordable housing, non-profits and municipalities; Amzur Technologies, a business consulting and IT solutions company; and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a research and development organization focusing on the electric power sector.

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“DOE congratulates the three teams from the industry who successfully demonstrated how their solutions enable DERs to connect and operate with the electric grid,” said Gil Bindewald, Chair of the Grid Modernization Initiative. “Interoperability is a foundational priority of the Grid Modernization Initiative at DOE.  Multiple Offices within DOE are working together to ensure that future IoT devices will integrate seamlessly into the grid.  The results of this collaborative effort helps drive interoperability standards that will transform the marketplace.”