Note to the Disruptors: Maximizing the Value of Emerging Generation Technology
These are exciting times for the innovators, aggregators, and outside-the-box-thinkers who are laying the foundations of change in the world of electric generation. The industry has taken significant notice of the benefits and operational characteristics of green energy resources. Guidance is plentiful for invertor-based technologies as well as battery-based facilities, thermal storage, and other technologies.
Utility scale generation can mean a facility with at least one megawatt of capacity. The term has also been used to name the boundary dividing those facilities that must comply with mandatory reliability standards and those that do not. For distributed generation plants consisting of aggregated multiple sources of energy, the boundary is 75 megawatts of capacity.
As noted previously in this blog series, compliance with the NERC reliability standards for green power generators need not be laborious. The good news is many of the operational measures, like power flows, relay settings, and low voltage or low frequency ride through requirements, are easily made during design and development. If the facility is designed with these parameters in mind, the equipment will immediately contribute to the reliability of the Bulk Electric System from day one of operation. In our experience, these measures and considerations are too often left to the owner/operator to follow up on. This practice is beyond inconvenient. It is time consuming and expensive to fill in the compliance blanks after the facility is built. Developers of facilities at the 75 MW and higher range can increase the appeal of their products by having as many of these requirements checked off as possible. Think of it as a pre-qualification. Given the choice between a facility NERC compliant on day one of operation compared to one with a blank slate in terms of evidence, the pre-determined compliance should play huge role in the procurement decision. Remember that facilities are required to be 100% compliance on day one of operation. There is no ramp up period.
For smaller facilities below the 75 MW threshold, the mandatory reliability standards do not apply. However, guidance on operational attributes for invertor based and hybrid resources is readily available. While not mandatory, the developer of smaller facilities is equally well served to address as many of these considerations as possible as the equipment is being designed. For example, factors like reactive power provision, frequency control, and operational limits should be well defined. If the green power facility has these points of guidance covered, they will be a welcome addition to the interconnected electric grids. They will support reliability immediately and not be resources that need to be “accommodated” but rather ones that are welcome additions to the fleet of Bulk Electric System generators. The green power generators should be to a large extent “plug and play” resources.