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New and emerging solutions from Itron are opening the way to manage the impact of the growing penetration of renewables on the grid.

The growing penetration of intermittent utility-scale and distributed wind and solar renewables are now unstoppable and apparent in most if not all countries around the world.

Yet as Matt Smith, director grid management networked solutions at Itron, pointed out in a session at Itron Utility Week, the integration of these renewables can be in opposition to other utility priorities such as safety and grid reliability.

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“Integrating renewables on the grid can cause safety issues or voltage challenges and so oftentimes it is a balancing act. Utilities need to think about an integrated strategy bringing together all the challenges in a holistic plan.”

He continued that a lot of work has been done to solve the interconnection challenges and to integrate corporate customers, but the low voltage network is the “final frontier” where visibility is limited and customers are seeking alternatives.

“This is the area changing the most and we believe it will require active management moving forward and automation will be driven there.”

Open platforms

Itron’s response to these trends is based on common open platforms that can support multi-technology and multi-vendor devices.

Smith said these are being advanced with R&D in three main areas: multi-transport network platforms, distributed intelligence and low voltage distribution management.

The goals are to take cellular closer to the edge and to add more capability to mesh-cellular integration, to push more intelligence and autonomous decision making to the edge and to improve the management and optimisation of the distribution grid.

“We believe that these will bring unique solutions to help with the seamless integration of distributed resources and are testing them with customers.”

Some example use cases he mentions include high impedance detection, residential neutral fault detection, load disaggregation, location awareness, outage detection and active transformer management.

Demand response

Turning to resources for utilities to balance the grid, JP Harper, Itron’s global products leader for distributed energy resources, said the main challenges are the intermittency of wind and solar and the growth of battery storage and electric vehicles (EVs).

“Demand response is becoming more important but it’s not the demand response of the past and it is becoming more aggressive. It is being called more often, is of shorter duration, has shorter advance notice and is moving more year round.”

This demand response needs to be provided by flexible resources and automation is key to bring these online, he continues.

“The focus needs to be on making demand response non disruptive for customers. Our vision to turn distributed resources into grid assets focusses on monitoring, then optimisation and control.”

As an example of a real use case, Harper mentions transformer protection, which has arisen as a requirement due to the rapid growth of EVs.

“We can identify at risk transformers by mapping customers to transformers and then engage those customers to enrol in a programme for example to manage the EV charging to balance the battery recharge. The focus is on ensuring the vehicle is fully recharged at the required time.”

Potential solutions under test are based on analytics and edge intelligence.

“We know there is change ahead and we will continue to find new and innovative ways to leverage technology to help utilities achieve their corporate objectives and green energy goals,” said Harper.

Learn more about Itron Utility Week