Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are small, grid-connected devices that locally generate and store electricity. Unlike conventional power stations that require electricity to be transmitted over long distances, DER systems are located close to the load they serve (often behind the meter) and are more modular and flexible. Increasingly operated in the context of a microgrid, DER may lower environmental impacts and improve the security of electrical supply.
As with everything, DER pose both pros and cons. From a benefit standpoint, potential cost savings to customers, a reduction in emissions when moving away from traditionally-used fossil fuels, and greater control by consumers of their own power lead the list. While the main challenge includes reductions in utility revenue, as the amount of electricity distributed by power plants lessens while the plants’ operating utilities still must invest in the infrastructure to maintain the grid.
As DER becomes a more significant percentage of the energy supply, reliable communications will be required to monitor and effectively use these resources. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, unlike today’s one-directional system, the energy flow to accommodate DER will be multi-directional (i.e. utility to home, home to utility, home to home) making effective communications technologies and analytical systems critical in these applications. Some experts have suggested that AMI systems currently in development will be able to support the integration of DER into the grid, for instance through the use of ZigBee or other Home Area Network (HAN) technologies. However, we know these technologies to be limiting in certain capacities.
An alternative approach to communications for DER is to incorporate them into the Delta Smart Grid Network™ (DSGN™). As an advanced smart grid and analytics hardware/software solution that is more inclusive and scalable than competing systems, the DSGN™ provides unparalleled data collection and delivery opportunities that make it possible to deliver and receive user data wherever there is electricity. The bi-directional nature of the DSGN™ enables the incorporation of DER while maximizing network capabilities and providing broadband internet access to consumers of electricity.