At Packetized Energy we are focused on solving energy problems through grid edge flexibility. Given the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme climate events, such as floods in Houston, fires in California, or hurricanes that reach New York City, it is clearly essential that we design future electric energy systems so that they are resilient to failures in the bulk power grid. Fortunately, grid edge flexibility can be a valuable tool in enabling resilience. Behind-the-meter distributed energy resources (DERs), like batteries, rooftop PV systems, and even smart thermostats, can, if well coordinated, work together to enable critical energy services to continue, even when the bulk power grid fails.

It is with this in mind that Packetized Energy has been honored to join with a team of researchers led by the Department of Energy’s SLAC Linear Accelerator Laboratory to develop an innovative research platform focused on leveraging advances in artificial intelligence to improve resilience in power distribution networks. (Learn more about the project in this New York Times article). More specifically, the Grid Resilience and Intelligence Platform (GRIP) project is developing methods to anticipate grid problems that could result from emerging weather events, gracefully “absorb” the outages that result from an event, and then recover from those events. 

Our contribution to the GRIP software platform was to develop method that leverage Packetized Energy’s innovative device-driven approach to grid edge flexibility to enable grid absorption after extreme events. We successfully demonstrated that the resulting algorithms could dynamically reconfigure a distribution network into “virtual islands” (autonomously formed microgrids) and then use a group of DERs (e.g., water heaters, distributed batteries, EV chargers, solar PV systems) to help balance supply and demand within these islands. As a result, we were able to show that the amount of load served during and after these events was substantially increased, relative to a baseline, using only the existing resources in the network model. This was done while also preserving customer quality of service limits and minimizing changes in the network structure.

Looking forward, Packetized Energy is leveraging the results from this exciting project to provide valuable resilience products and services to our electric utility customers and the energy customers that they serve. For example, we expect to launch our first commercially viable grid edge battery and solar PV inverter integrations in 2020. When we do so, we will make sure that electricity customers benefit from the resilience that this combination can provide, and that our electric utility partners can transform these resources into additional value through our Nimble™ grid edge flexibility platform.

The diagram illustrates the GRIP Project demonstration network and an absorption test-case scenario where 3 supernodes (black circles) were faulted due to an ice storm. The dotted lines show the two algorithm-configured optimal virtual islands. Without this reconfiguration, the 3 supernodes in the bottom right virtual island (blue dotted outline) would have experienced a blackout. Within each of the the virtual islands, DERs balance supply and demand to substantially increase the load served while preserving customer quality of service.