Final week, New York utility Con Edison launched its newest effort to easy the way in which for patrons to put in rooftop photo voltaic — and to feed the utility’s rising starvation for knowledge on how that photo voltaic may be built-in into its grid. 

The software it’s utilizing, constructed by Arlington, Va.-based ConnectDER, is a meter collar adapter that plugs into the socket the place electrical meters hook up with buildings. In its easiest makes use of, it may present the info assortment and computing energy of a typical sensible meter, serving as a cellular-connected level resolution to attach explicit prospects to utilities that haven’t but deployed superior metering infrastructure (AMI) throughout their territories.

However ConnectDER’s units may also function a connection level for rooftop photo voltaic programs, permitting installers to keep away from pricey circuit breaker panel upgrades and time-consuming wiring work. A 300-unit pilot set up launched in 2017 confirmed financial savings between $400 to $1,500 per set up, making the $400 up-front value of the system properly price it for patrons, in keeping with James Skillman, Con Edison buyer mission supervisor. 

The subsequent 2,400 models Con Edison shall be putting in over the following 12 months and a half will proceed these financial savings, he stated. However they’ll additionally begin delivering precious knowledge as a part of a pilot mission with the New York State Power Analysis and Growth Company (NYSERDA) — exact, real-time measurements of photo voltaic technology on distribution circuits which will face disruptions from the utility’s rising share of customer-owned photo voltaic.

“We’ve got greater than 35,000 prospects linked with photo voltaic, and people with the ConnectDER merchandise are the one ones we all know precisely what they’re doing,” he stated. Con Edison is within the closing levels of deploying sensible meters to its roughly 1.three million prospects, however these solely measure internet family masses, not what’s taking place behind the meter. 

The concept of utility-owned expertise serving as a management level for customer-owned DERs could properly spark suspicion from residential photo voltaic and storage suppliers, that are used to battling with utilities over internet metering tariffs, interconnection insurance policies and different elements of how their programs work together with the facility grids they’re linked to.

However with the ability to differentiate photo voltaic manufacturing from internet load will assist Con Edison in planning future grid investments to handle the potential voltage disruptions and two-way energy flows that would come up as distributed photo voltaic rises as a proportion of its total electrical energy provide, Skillman stated. That would show helpful for the photo voltaic business as properly, if it results in easing interonnection limits to including extra photo voltaic. 

One other pilot mission underway with NYSERDA will discover combine ConnectDER’s photo voltaic knowledge into its sensible meter wi-fi mesh community, which may provide knowledge to tell real-time distribution grid operations. And the identical advantages may apply to monitoring behind-the-meter batteries, electrical automobile chargers, and different distributed power sources (DERs) which might be set to develop dramatically underneath New York state’s aggressive decarbonization mandates.

“Utilizing it to put in a battery or EV charger is nice, as a result of that energy exits the connector earlier than it hits the shoppers’ inner breaker panel,” stated Skillman. “All that energy shall be measured by the connector itself, and it means that you can do some fascinating issues,” from crafting price packages and incentives for batteries and EV chargers, to monitoring how they’ll serve to scale back or change grid investments. “That is the place we actually get excited from a distribution engineering standpoint.”

A rising want for utility-customer distributed power connection

As increasingly more photo voltaic installations search to interconnect to the grid, discovering methods to share knowledge with utilities — and even supply them some management over how they function — may find yourself serving to DERs develop to scale, ConnectDER CEO Whit Fulton stated in an interview. 

ConnectDER isn’t the one manner for utilities to get visibility into behind-the-meter DERs. Power disaggregation applied sciences can analyze energy flows to estimate main masses. The newest variations of sensible electrical panels or residence power administration programs being constructed by business heavyweights like Schneider Electrical and Eaton and startups like Span and Lumin can present precise circuit-level knowledge and management. 

New photo voltaic and battery inverters may also talk important operational knowledge by way of commonplace protocols, a functionality that’s been tapped by utilities in pilot tasks throughout the nation. And corporations like Tesla, Sunrun, sonnen, Generac and Swell are aggregating photo voltaic and battery-equipped houses to supply grid companies as digital energy vegetation (VPPs). 

However utilities aren’t accountable for these units, and might’t assure entry to their knowledge, Fulton famous. Even when distributors are making their knowledge out there, “it’s forcing a number of complexity on the utility to interface with the DER market in a complete manner.” 

“On the identical time, utilities are underneath strain from regulators and from legislatures” in states like New York which have set targets for tapping the worth of customer-owned DERs, he stated. “We’re permitting a utility to supply quicker, higher, safer choices for connecting to the utility.” 

In actual fact, ConnectDER’s meter socket units are already in use in one of many nation’s VPP tasks, he stated. That’s Vermont utility Inexperienced Mountain Energy’s program, which provides prospects up-front funds or month-to-month lease plans for utility-owned or third-party provided batteries, plus EV chargers and sensible thermostats and water heaters, in alternate for making them out there for grid wants. 

Likewise, utility Arizona Public Service has used ConnectDER to hyperlink prospects’ photo voltaic inverters to utility communications networks as a part of its broad-ranging distributed power integration packages, and Hawaiian Electrical has made them out there to prospects to handle the tariffs which have changed photo voltaic internet metering.  

To make sure, photo voltaic installers are leery of utilities with the ability to Fulton pointed to a pilot mission underway at Pennsylvania utility PPL Electrical, the place ConnectDER’s meter collars are getting used to run head-to-head checks of how automated sensible inverter settings examine to energetic utility management of rooftop photo voltaic programs for managing grid disruptions. 

Whereas photo voltaic installers have largely resisted utility proposals to manage photo voltaic programs, it’s doable that lowering their output throughout sure moments of the day may really improve the internet hosting capability of solar-saturated circuits, permitting extra photo voltaic to be put in. 

“We’re actually enthusiastic about that one,” he stated. “It’s going to be a clear auditing of the worth of direct utility management versus autonomous or impartial settings.” 

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