Unexpected Generation Identification
Identification and analysis of micro-generation incidents and inputs on distribution grids.
The Utility Problem
As a significant trend in recent years, the adaptation rate of the behind-the-meter microgeneration is getting larger and larger. There are multiple attractive reasons why electricity consumers install these distributed microgeneration sources like solar photovoltaics (PV) or micro wind turbines. Among these reasons, offsetting the energy costs, reducing the home’s environmental impact or contributing to energy independence is worth mentioning. These microgeneration sources bring multiple benefits and opportunities on the distribution utility side. The utility benefits from microgeneration by decreasing the need for capacity upgrades in certain areas, reducing transmission congestion, and can offer service area consumers backup in case of an outage. These benefits can be summarized as non-wire alternatives (NWA). It is important to note that utility benefits occur when the utility knows that the microgeneration is installed behind the utility energy meter (behind the meter).
Unfortunately, this is only sometimes the case. There might be multiple reasons utilities need to include behind-the-meter microgeneration records. Firstly, energy consumers often install microgeneration sources without reporting them to the utility. Secondly, the information flow and record-keeping process in utilities need to be improved, and the records need to make their way into the records system. These situations are not just a lost opportunity for utility and consumers to participate in various microgeneration and distribution energy resources (DER) programs but also pose a potential safety risk for utility personnel.
Safety is a concern when work needs to be performed on the grid’s infrastructure (like wires, conductors, insulators, transformers, etc.), and the utility crew (linemen) is dispatched to the area to conduct the required activity. Many of the grid’s equipment operations require work where the grid voltage can’t be present because it might result in electric shock – electrocution. Utility linemen have multiple tools and procedures to prevent the voltage from reaching the equipment needing maintenance. The most common technique is disconnection/insulation from the source of voltage. This technique entails disconnection from the upstream direction of the grid (leading to the higher voltage level substation). However, more and more distributed microgeneration assets exist in service areas, so it is essential to realize that these are also voltage sources. For these reasons, linemen often consult the utility system of records for the presence of microgeneration to ensure that no other sources of voltage are connected to the targeted equipment. Nevertheless, the missing utility records may lead linemen to false assumptions, and safety accidents might occur.
For these reasons, it is beneficial to proactively identify situations when the utility system of records is missing behind-the-meter microgeneration and generation is unexpectedly present on the utility meter. Successfully conducting such an analysis should result in increased safety for utility crews, which is invaluable.
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