Why Local Load Balancing Is Vital for Managing the Grid in the New Energy World
To maintain a constant power supply to homes and businesses, energy companies need a steady stream from energy sources that are capable of handling heavy loads at peak times. Traditional energy produced by natural gas plants has enabled us to ensure that everyone has adequate power at all times, but the push to harness cleaner, renewable energy creates a set of issues that prevent many providers from going green. This is where local load balancing comes into play.
The main issue is that renewable energy sources such as solar and wind aren’t nearly as predictable as the traditional method of burning fossil fuels. Cloud cover and nightfall both significantly impede solar energy production, and the strongest winds typically blow during the night when the demand for energy is much lower. Without a local load balancing strategy coupled with the ability to store renewable energy for use during peak times, more utility companies will continue to offer energy from traditional sources that have larger carbon footprints. Advancements with local load balancing are necessary to combat this issue and create dependable energy systems that can offer the same coverage as traditional sources without emitting copious amounts of CO₂.
The End of the Centralized Energy Grid
In a centralized grid, traditional power stations produce high voltage energy that is easily managed by the Transmission System Operator (TSO), but renewable energy produced by natural means such as solar or wind isn’t fed into the system at the same level. Energy produced by solar and wind – referred to as intermittent energy – mainly occurs on a local level and becomes the responsibility of the TSO once it is directed into the grid. The problem is that when this occurs, there is a latency aspect that creates instability. In simple terms, there isn’t enough power at the exact time that it is needed to fulfill the requirements and demands of the end-users.
Furthermore, the energy that is fed to the edge of the grid must make its way to the center, and intermittent energy doesn’t travel as well as fossil fuel energy. The further intermittent energy must travel, the more technical issues can arise as a result of equipment resistance. This is a dangerous recipe for instability and means that if we want to continue to implement new renewable energy sources and connect them into the high-level grid, we’re going to need local load balancing to supplement the latency.
Local Load Balancing on a Decentralized Energy Production
For local load balancing to work effectively, the Distribution System Operator (DSO) must manage supply and demand instead of the TSO. This involves accurate forecasting of intermittent energy production by means of tracking weather patterns, topology, and other resources, as well as keeping a firm handle on local energy demand. Machine learning can streamline these processes to remove latency altogether and provide a steady flow of power. This is what local load balancing is all about – removing the need for intermittent energy to travel greater distances to connect into the high-level grid.
The problem of supply and demand doesn’t necessarily end there, however. There is still the issue that gives intermittent energy its name. Without a robust storage solution, the energy produced by solar and wind initiatives isn’t reliable enough to invest in. It’s one thing to harness natural elements and create clean energy, but it’s futile if that energy isn’t around when you need it.
Importance of Battery Backup
The concept of powering thousands of homes and businesses with...batteries...isn’t exactly on the forefront of most people’s minds. But while it’s rare in the world of energy production, storing energy makes a lot of sense as we move towards a cleaner future. Intermittent energy may not be reliable enough to provide a consistent flow of power for an entire grid system, but newly-developed, industry-grade lithium-ion batteries are capable of filling in the gaps when needed.
We know that the wind naturally picks up at night as the Earth’s surface cools due to a lack of sunlight, but that’s when the demand for energy is at its lowest. Utilizing batteries enables us to collect energy overnight and store it for use during the day to provide a bridge for intermittent energy, ultimately creating a steady flow of power. In Huntington Beach, CA, AES Energy Storage has created a 2-megawatt energy storage unit that is capable of providing power to 1,500 homes using 83,000 lithium-ion battery cells. While it’s still in testing, the concept is one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Bridging intermittent energy with battery backups such as this can eliminate latency and support grid fluctuations, and combined with local load balancing, can provide a clean, viable energy solution.
Machine Learning to Help Maximize Energy Production and Distribution
The introduction of IT-enabled machine learning can help to make all of this fit together. Accurate forecasting of supply and demand combined with battery backup can help the DSO predict the needs of the grid and ensure that there is a proper balance. PowerX has developed regional and local load balancing ability and paired it with unparalleled intelligence to help efficiently manage grid-edge infrastructure. PowerX heaters can be converted into battery backups in order to assist with local load balancing and there are plans in place to add 10+ megawatts of grid balancing potential each year.
Local Load Balancing Is the Future, and PowerX Can Help You Get There
As the grid becomes decentralized in order to make way for renewable energy sources, local load balancing will help by providing power that adequately meets the daily demands. But regardless of available power, it is our responsibility to reduce our energy consumption by implementing systems that provide intelligent insight into our usage trends. PowerX is ready and has developed a full suite of devices to help manage and cut down on power consumption within the residential market – a market of over $100 billion per year – by monitoring and optimizing equipment surrounding water, heat, and electricity.