900 MHZ spectrum provides effective private network for grid connectivity – NREL

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The second phase of a pilot conducted by the US Department of Energy (DoE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has proved the effectiveness of the 900 MHZ spectrum in providing utilities with a resilient private communications network that can help them address connectivity and market challenges.

NREL partnered with communications firm Anterix and utilities including Consumers Energy, Duke Energy, Evergy, Eversource Energy, Holy Cross Energy, and Xcel Energy to assess the ability of the 900 MHZ spectrum to help utilities deliver various use cases such as demand response for grid resilience and enhanced customer services.

Phase 2 focused on using the 900 MHZ spectrum to connect NREL’s Advanced Distribution Management System to ensure peak load management through dynamic voltage regulation.

Amongst the six scenarios tested in the second phase, three focused on distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS).

The completion of the phase comes as utility companies are struggling with optimal management of distributed energy resources (DERs).

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A number of DERMS have been developed, however, the lack of secure, reliable and resilient communication networks hinders utility efforts to leverage and manage DERMS.

In the first phase of the pilot, which was announced in February 2019, NREL partnered with pdvWireless and tested 900 MHZ applications for a direct transfer trip of a solar inverter in seven different wireless scenarios.

A testbed was developed at NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility comprising network communications congestion scenarios that accurately represent real-life challenges faced by utility distribution systems.

The aim of the pilot is to ensure the use of real-time grid operations data for active control of advanced distribution systems and grid modernisation.

Barry Mather, Group Manager for Integrated Devices and Systems in NREL’S Power Systems Engineering Center, said the pilot provides utilities with “a means to further evaluate the performance of wireless communications in grid applications as utilities look to modernise their grids to meet decarbonisation goals.”

Carlos L’Abbate, Anterix’s Chief Technology Officer, added: “As utilities are increasingly attracted to the cost, scalability, and flexibility benefits of wireless broadband communications to support grid modernization efforts, NREL has performed a valuable service by demonstrating that 900 MHz private networks built on LTE—a state-of-the-art worldwide standard—can meet real-world utility use cases for distribution grid protection.”

NREL says the findings of the pilot will help utilities to align with standards set by the DoE’s Multi-Year Project Plan for Grid Modernisation, which states that “a modern grid should have increased resilience to all types of hazards, increased reliability, enhanced security, and superior flexibility to respond to variability, especially with a wider range of energy sources.”

Find out more about NREL’s findings.