Consortium Issues Plug & Play DER Challenge

August 06, 2018 by Paul Shepard

A consortium of national labs and nonprofit organizations has announced a call for concepts to engage the smart grid community in demonstrating visionary interoperability capabilities on how facilities with distributed energy resources, or DERs, integrate and interact with the utility grid.

The Plug & Play DER Challenge is being organized and administered by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) for the U.S. Department of Energy's Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC). The challenge is being rolled out in collaboration with DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, alongside other project industry advisors.

"The future of local solar power and electric vehicle charging requires coordination with the flexibility in demand and storage to ensure a reliable and resilient electric grid," said Steve Widergren, principal engineer at PNNL and interoperability project lead for the consortium. "Integration must be simplified across the board. This event challenges industry to leapfrog to a universal way that all these technologies can connect and operate in harmony with little fuss or bother."

The goal of the project is to improve interoperability as a means toward easing technology integration across various devices and systems, including related end-use systems such as buildings, electric vehicles, and DERs. Distributed energy resources, or DERs, are smaller decentralized electrical generation, storage, and flexible load devices and methods that connect to the electric distribution grid.

"Lack of interoperability drives up costs, reduces system performance, and creates vulnerabilities," said Berkeley Lab research scientist Bruce Nordman. "Particularly, in the case of DERs, interoperability-related problems make it more difficult to integrate high amounts of renewable energy sources and energy storage."

"The Plug & Play DER Challenge is designed to be a catalyst for new and innovative thinking on the critical issues involved in DER interconnection and integration, which are themselves central to our increasingly complex and digital energy system," said Christine Stearn, Senior Manager for the Smart Electric Power Alliance's 51st State Initiative.

"What is particularly exciting for SEPA is the opportunities the project presents for collaboration across a range of industry stakeholders and experts," Stearn concluded.

"Interoperability ensures that the many connected devices and assets in a smart and integrated grid can communicate with each other in a transparent, secure, and accurate way," said Mark McGranaghan, Vice President of Distribution and Energy Utilization for EPRI. "The Plug and Play Challenge provides an opportunity for power system stakeholders to share, learn, and collaborate on the journey toward interoperability, for the benefit of the public."