Grid integration of Distributed Energy Resources

Technologies, potentials contributions and future prospects
G. Adinolfi*, V. Cigolotti*, G. Graditi* and G. Ferruzzi**
ENEA - Italian National agency for new technologies, Energy and sustainable economic development Research Center, Portici-Napoli, (Italy) ** University of Naples Federico II, Dept. of Industrial Engineering, P.le Tecchio 80, I-80124 Naples (Italy) corresponding author - email:

Abstract—In the last years, technological innovations and changing economic and regulatory environments have resulted in a great interest for Distributed Generation (DG). DG concept covers local power generation at distribution level by using renewable or non-conventional generators. Distributed Energy Resources (DER) range from CHP (combined heat and power) systems based on Stirling engines, fuel cells and microturbines, to renewables like solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, wind energy conversion systems (WECS) and small scale hydroelectric generation. The use of biofuels and application of various storage technologies are also considered part of DG. In this paper, the state of the art of DG technologies and strategies focusing on solar PV, wind and fuel cells - are analysed, benefits and drawbacks are discussed, future R&D prospects are presented. Index Terms--Distributed Generation, RES, integration, grid

(reliability, safety, control, stability, etc.) of the electric system. The aim of this paper is the analysis of commercial and technical integration of some Distributed Energy Resources (DER), as solar PV, wind and fuel cells, in distribution networks. In this context three main issues are discussed: the commercial aspects of DER, advantages and problems, future Research and Development (R&D) need and prospect. II. DISTRIBUTED GENERATION A. Brief literature review of DG definitions Distributed generation (DG) is not a new concept, but an emerging approach to providing electric power of the power system. The term “Distributed” is used to describe a number of different generation scenarios and the development is driven by (a) government commitments to reduce CO2 emissions from electric power generation; (b) technological advances in energy generation and storage as well as in information and communication technologies; (c) regulatory reform of the energy industry [1]. A new trend is developing toward distributed energy generation, which means that energy conversion units are situated close to energy consumers, and large units are substituted by smaller ones. A distributed energy system is an efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional energy system. As previously said, distributed generation is not a new concept but, only in recent years, more attention is dedicated to this theme. Consequently, there isn’t a officially definition recognised in literature. The definition should be based on the purpose, the location, the power scale, the power delivery, the technology, the environment impact, the mode of operation, the ownership and the penetration of distributed generation [2]. The main definitions are shown below. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) defines the DG as generation of electricity by facilities sufficiently smaller than central plants, usually 10 MW or less, so as to allow interconnection at nearly any point in the power system [3].

I. INTRODUCTION During the last period, the electric energy consumption is greatly increased, and it is estimated a yearly rise of about 1.4% until 2030 (IEA). In this scenario, it is clear that the grid centralized architecture constituted by a few energy producers and many end-users has to be overcome. In fact, such a model can be affected by failures and vulnerability problems, with consequently high losses in terms of load and economics aspects. The transformation of passive distribution networks into actively managed networks will require novel technical solutions and commercial arrangements. One of the alternative options to this context is represented by Distributed generation (DG), intended as “the generation of electricity by facilities that are sufficiently smaller than central generating plants so as to allow interconnection at nearly any point in a power system” (IEEE) [1]. In the future smart grid landscape, Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are expected to occupy an important part of the global energy generation through an important number of small-scale energy sources (combined heat and power systems, solar panels, small wind turbines, etc.), highly dispersed across the whole grid. Therefore, their integration in the grid will imply new challenges for the electric grid management, which has to ensure, in a decentralized way, the operational requirements

The DOE considers distributed power systems to typically range from less than MW and/or energy storage devices typically sited near customer loads or distribution and sub-transmission substations as distributed energy resources. DG Classification Usually DG is classified according to different types and operating technologies. supply the spinning reserve required. security of supply may be of rising concern due to gas demand/offer unbalances. cooling or improving their efficiency by generating more power. [6] Environment  Intensive use of FER  Use of CHP reduces thermal pollution of the environment  DGs reduce the output process emissions. which leads to reduction of the demand required  DGs increase the system equipments. Security of power system  DGs have a positive impact on the distribution system voltage profile and power quality problems.  DG penetration level considerably reduce the congestions.  Power quality deterioration might result as an undesired effect of the utilization of power electronicsbased converters to connect DG technologies to the distribution grid. To understood the real benefits of DG. In the European Directive 2003/54/EC. Centralized power plant Energy market Economic point of view  DGs can reduce or avoid the need for building new T&D lines and reduce T&D networks capacity during planning phase.  DGs provide transmission capacity release.  DER can help in system continuity. Ability of DG to respond to a demand change. and provide fuel savings. TABLE II BARRIERS OF DER [3]. Technologies for distributed generation are numerous and varied. it is necessary analyse the impact that this technology in terms of environmental. alternative to the traditional energy system. A summary of benefits and drawbacks is presented in table I and table II.  intermittent power output.  DGs reduce the distribution network power losses  DGs can help in “peak load shaving” and load management programs. [6] Centralized power plant  Fragmented information  Lack of uniformity and consistency  Considerable effort in management and/or education Energy market  Needs of incentive scheme Security of power system  Distributed control systems must be redesigned/reset to handle two-way power flows on distribution lines. distributed energy system is an efficient. not centrally dispatched. There are more possibilities to classify the DG technologies according to their different properties and features. can be an option for managing intermittency of . The US Department of Energy (DOE) defines DG as modular electric generation or storage located near the point of use. According to different definitions. The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines DG as generating plant serving a customer on-site or providing support to a distribution network. connected to the grid at distribution-level voltages.  Can be placed anywhere also if renewable DGs technology require certain geographical conditions  CHP DGs can use their waste heat for heating. [5].  type of energy source or prime mover. serving a customer on-site or providing support to a distribution network.  available unit size and modularity feasibility. Energy storage technologies (such as battery and flywheel). transformers.  type of dispatch (local and/or central). respectively.  DGs maintain system stability. connected to the grid at distribution level voltages. Distributed Generation (DG) is defined as ‘generation plants connected to the distribution system’. but also significantly affects local voltage and fault current levels.TABLE I BENEFITS OF DER [3]. security of supply. reliability and quality of supply for customers.  Given the recorded growth trend of natural gas fuelled CHP technologies integrated in distribution networks. reliable and environmentally friendly system. This classification may be done according to:  capability for emission-free operation. the costs of imbalances will become increasingly important.” In adding.  suitability for combined heat and power (CHP) production. efficiency. [5]. usually connected to the distribution network and smaller than 50-100 MW.  DGs can be used as on-site standby to supply electricity in case of emergency and system outages.  Given the expected growth of the market share of intermittent renewable and heat-based CHP.  DGs can be assembled easily anywhere as modules. B. it is possible summarized DER concepts as follows: “DER are electric power sources.  DG technologies connection not only changes the power flows pattern. lifetimes. electricity system.  They provide transmission capacity release.  Shared low  Contribute to ancillary  Can work service independently  Stimulate  Flexibility competition  Increased control at the local level The International Council on Large Electricity Systems (CIGRE) defines DG unit as a generation unit that is not centrally planned. economic.  DGs can reduce the wholesale power price by supplying power to the grid.

fuel cells and microturbines. WECS are considered unsteady supplies [4]. III. Micro Small Medium Large Fig. In addition to market barriers. combined with nonoptimized turbine efficiency and design. and their costs decrease with time. there are several DG applications in different environments with relevant benefits and issues to be analysed. wind energy conversion systems and small-scale hydroelectric generation [4]. and A is the swept area of rotor blades (m2). Wind turbines may have horizontal axis configuration or vertical axis configuration. to renewables like solar photovoltaic systems. generated power types. The choice has been made taking into account both the main different applications and the different power supplied period. technical barriers were also identified. because they don’t produce CO2 emissions during operation time. the WECS principal component. especially 1 The output power of a wind turbine is determined by several factors such as wind velocity. and testing. [9].  interconnection to the grid. In this paper the following DERs will be described:  Wind energy conversion systems (WECS)  Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems  Fuel Cell (FC) systems. The average commercial turbine sizes of WECS range In addition to all the benefits similar for DER. result in missed market share.some DG technologies. Wind turbine. WECS are environmental friendly technology. The power developed is given by 1 P  Cp  V 3 A 2 where P is the power (W). including standards and defined requirements. and economically motivating incentives complicates and distorts markets for small wind systems. 2. captures the kinetic energy of wind flow through rotor blades and transfers the energy to the induction generator side through the gearbox. Most common classification of DG Capacities [4] Prospective DER technologies range from micro-CHP systems based on Stirling engines. DISTRIBUTED ENERGY RESOURCES A. the limited number of commercial turbines 50 kW and greater. First of all. Turbine and system reliability. DG Capacities from 300 kW to 5 MW1 [8]. limited turbine size choices.  lack of consistent incentive policies across markets. Wind Barriers to the Distributed Generation Several barriers were found to be casual factors in multiple market segments:  turbine availability. electric ratings and renewable and non-renewable technologies. The main WECS applications are remote places and process industry. V is the wind velocity (m/s).  grid interconnection and integration. . As already mentioned. [9].  is the air density (kg/m3). DGs different classifications can be obtained according to their electrical applications. The generator shaft is driven by the wind turbine to generate electric power. The technical complexity and cost of interconnection of small wind systems to the electric distribution grid require further advancement. Due to depending on weather conditions and needing control on their operation in some applications. Cp is the power coefficient. Another attempt for DG classification can be done according to the type of the fuel used: it can be either fossil or non-fossil fuel. supply duration. 1. size and shape of the turbine. standardization. Turbine grid interconnection is a complex issue that varies from state to state and generally from utility service provider to service provider [7]. Example of Wind installation 1 W – 5 kW 5k W – 5 MW 5–50 MW 50–300 MW Fig. In fact. contribute to global safety (non-hazardous or radioactive wastes) unlike nuclear power and unlike to traditional oil fuel. The most common classification used is shown in Fig. Wind energy conversion systems (WECS) Wind energy conversion systems (WECS) convert wind energy into electrical energy [8]. 1. The lack of clear. consistent. These levels of capacities vary widely from one unit to a large number of units connected in a modular form.

Each of them presents particular characteristics in terms of layout. In that case. red tape and prolix processes dissuade people to request credit. efficiency and reliability. The second type is constituted by thin film solar cells (amorphous silicon. Until conventional energy is less expensive. The produced energy can be grid introduced by a DC-AC converter (inverter). some market-based barriers. PV cells of the first category are the crystalline silicon (Si) ones with a marker share of about 87%. holding distributed PV applications back. Moreover. Solar photovoltaic (PV) One of the most diffused renewable energy source is the solar one. R&D investments include supervisory control systems that coordinate turbine operation with load management. In fact. An interesting aspect is represented by PV plants aesthetics. If these standards can be established. At the moment.  not easy access to financing procedures. equipment and plant design costs are still too high. Finally. In fact. These devices are very performing. in spite of numerous available Building Integrated PV (BIPV) .in distributed applications where service personal are less readily available. wind turbines are still considered too noisy to be used in residential settings.  inadequate government policy supporting PV integration. so resulting reliable for a time period of twenty-five years and more. a Distributed MPPT DC-DC converter dedicate to the MPPT of each PV module is adopted with a consequent efficiency improvement of the whole system performance. CIGS. Between all the possible materials used. It can be exploited as electricity and heat source. everywhere available.  high initial cost of PV systems and high payback period. and efficiency. and ratings are necessary . their disadvantage is represented by very high costs. 3. hinder the adoption of wind systems. only the CdTe represents a suitable one in terms of the trade-off cost/efficiency. the III-V (GaInP/GaInAs/Ge) multi-junction solar cells represent the last generation or third generation premium "Conto Energia" is used to incentivize the PV market. CdTe etc. so causing PV technology growth stall with heavy consequences for all the sector operators  difficult PV distributed generation diffusion. from 2005 a feed. The introduction of innovative systems is not simple in an electricity markets mainly designed for centralized power plants. reliability. improved electronics and integration systems. Energy produced by PV plants is still characterized by higher cost respect to fossil sources one. nowadays. other technical barriers have to be identified. the last “Conto Energia” was published. a CPV module is realized by very small solar cells with cost reduction as a consequence of material saving. The last class contains higher efficiencies (about 40%) PV cells.). although distributed turbines are becoming quieter with each successive generation. consumers will not understand the community necessity to promote renewables. Example of PV installation PV Barriers to the Distributed Generation In spite of the great number of installed PV plants. B. It makes more difficult incentives access. consumers will have reliable data upon which to base purchase decisions. Numerous technical enhancements are needed for increased wind turbine robustness. PV devices have increasingly affirmed since they have acquired technology maturity. some photovoltaic (PV) technologies have been tested. and a 20% average efficiency. can be identified:  cost gap between PV and non-renewable resources. New turbine technologies are required for cost competitive energy in low-wind regimes. In Italy. and industry credibility will be enhanced. PV generators could be classified in three different category. Fig.which is also used to implement the PV system Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) [10] The MPPT function can also be implemented to PV generator level [11]. In the last years. prototyped and market introduced. free endless and gas emission free. [12]. . The lack of effective standards and consistent ratings has delayed the implementation of state rebate programs for small wind systems. testing. In 2012. In addition to market barriers. This policy attracted many international investors in our country until 2011. PV devices. The payback time is too long respect to the PV plant lifetime. since they are used only in Concentration PV applications. Perspectives Performance standards. the necessity to energy storage system to manage intermittency of WECS. Although if PV systems become every day cheaper. The lack of industry-accepted standards undermines the credibility of performance estimates for wind turbines.

low emissions. C. natural gas and other carriers always requires energy. small units (e. 4. commercial. FCs can operate with hydrogen. cost-effective fuel cell systems. Fuel cell (FC) The fuel cell is a device used to generate electric power and provide thermal energy from chemical energy through electrochemical processes. and system- Fig. heavy industrial ) Grid sited (central and distributed) Cogeneration (commercial. Fuel cells powered by renewable hydrogen can reduce emissions almost 100%. Table III provides a summary of the main application area of some fuel cell types. or 1 kW–3 MW systems for homes. To reach better results. heavy industrial) Type PEMFC PAFC MCFC SOFC These fuel cells can be multi-megawatt systems for large centralized power generation. such as: proton exchange membrane or polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). above all thanks to their potentially extremely high electrical high electrical efficiency. direct methanol fuel cell . The operating stages and products of this electrochemical process are direct current electric power. PV systems installation is still difficult in place characterized by landscape constraints. classified as high-temperature fuel cells. increased reliability. It can be considered as a battery supplying electric energy as long as its fuels are continued to supply. nearly silent and vibration-free operation. FC technology is based on an electrochemical process in which hydrogen and oxygen are combined to produce electricity without combustion. but the conversion of renewable electricity into hydrogen and then back into electricity is still associated with energy losses and additional costs. (DMFC). Electricity from wind and solar power can be used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis.g. and more efficient use of biomass resources. Unlike batteries. considering the future scenario based on smart grids diffusion. molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). light industrial. Perspectives In the future. and some low emitted gases (like NOx and CO2) with respect to traditional generators and hence is considered an environmentally safe electric power generation. Size and weight are approaching targets but further reductions are needed to meet packaging requirements for some commercial systems. light industrial. with the potential to use more than 80% of the fuel energy. fuel. opportune technologies have to be developed and appropriate grid codes have to be drawn up. and excellent transient response and load following capability. buildings. Fuel cells are seen as promising alternatives in the next future. light industrial. FCs can also operate on biomass derived fuel. phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) classified as low-temperature fuel cells. with an important benefit of low greenhouse gas emissions. compared to fossil fuel options. the process of separating hydrogen from chemical compounds like water. including CHP systems. TABLE III [10] FC TECHNOLOGIES AND THEIR APPLICATIONS Application availability Cogeneration (residential and commercial ) Cogeneration (commercial. Fuel cells can also provide the very high efficiencies inherent in CHP installations. alkaline fuel cell (AFC). water. FC Barriers to Distributed Generation Cost and durability present two of the most significant challenges to achieving clean. and distributed generation applications. reduction in bottlenecks and peak demand on the electric grid. reliable. 1 kW) for backup power. only concerning DG concept. The advantages of fuel cells for distributed power generation include: elimination of transmission and distribution losses. such systems will adopt higher efficiency technologies. FC does not need to be charged for the consumed materials during the electrochemical process since these materials are continuously supplied. heavy industrial) Grid sited (central and distributed) Cogeneration (residential. FC plant There are different types and operating technologies of fuel cells depending on the electrolyte used and operating temperature. DG can be considered an energy system in which fuel cells provide different services. In addition. The cleanest and most environmentally friendly way to produce hydrogen is through renewable energy. low operation and maintenance requirements. techniques and strategies are going to be further improved to achieve smart PV plants. heat. To this aim. Understanding of the effects of air. They consist in PV systems able to assure better performances than the current ones. strategies to suitably change PV plants configurations (matrix reconfiguration). PV systems are going to intensively interact with other network and GD operators to provide useful ancillary services and information to the controlled and optimized management of the electrical grid.strategies and technologies. but they will be also able to face the continuous changing working conditions and shadow problems by implementing. time by time.

Guttromson R. Fuel cells for the residential market will supply power in the range of 1 kW to 10 kW. especially those found in renewable fuels.. “Integeration of distributed energy resources “.. CONCLUSION The wide range of potential applications for distribution generation. High temperature fuel cells (MCFCs and SOFCs) will operate in a cogeneration mode. [15].CERTS . efficiency. High temperature fuel cells will serve this market. and mitigation strategies need to be identified and demonstrated. Fuel cells for the small commercial market will supply power in the range of 25 kW to 500 kW. Higher efficiency. small to medium sized hospitals. REFERENCES [1] Lasseter R. such as biogas. electrolyte support. Perspectives Stationary fuel cells can be used in a broad range of commercial. 2002. and electrode.. schools.000 hours durability to compete against other distributed power generation systems and to allow for an acceptable return on investment to the end-user. decentralization of power system and the trend to use renewable energy sources in most developed countries suggest that DG may have a large share in power generation in the future. All fuel cell types can serve this market. Dagle J. operation and pricing mechanisms of the open markets to help their viability and development. Improving the durability at lower cost of high temperature fuel cell (MCFC and SOFC) systems is also required. not only among themselves. High temperature fuel cells will serve this market. Stephens FJ. thanks to that FCs can save energy. [14] In particular. reduce emissions. including the electrolyte. CERTS microGrid concept. municipal utilities. but also with other emerging technologies such as microturbines... Fuel cells for the industrial market will supply power in the range of 1 MW to 25 MW. supplying heat and electricity. and plastic industries. which includes hotels. the following barriers to be overcome are identified:  Durability Stationary fuel cells must achieve greater than 60. biogas (from waste or waste water treatment plants) and fuels from biorefineries.. manure. sewage sludge. electricity market regulatory authorities and government policy makers should consider the worth of DG systems and modify the structure. waste flows from the food and agriculture industries. The majority of fuel cell system failures and forced outages (~90% in micro CHP systems) are the result of non-fuel cell stack BOP events [13]. heat exchangers) need to operate at elevated temperatures [14]. On the other hand. Eto J. more research and development is required to overcome the barriers that DG systems are currently confronting. Cost. and residential applications and can supplement or even replace power from the electrical grid. For high temperature fuel cells. The operating temperatures required for high temperature fuel cells place stringent durability requirements on materials and components. and energy service providers.S. Akhil A. PEMFCs and SOFCs operating (initially) in electric-only configurations are likely to serve single and multi-family residences. Materials and manufacturing costs for stack components need to be reduced. food. and offer increased reliability compared to traditional technologies. In stationary power applications. . Nevertheless. and wanting to minimize environmental impact in terms of polluting emissions.derived impurities (including from the fuel storage system) needs to be improved.  Performance Fuel cell and fuel cell system performance and efficiency must meet or exceed that of competing technologies to allow for market penetration and the inherent environmental benefits of the technology [13].. Yionger R.. metal. Fuel cells will compete in the commercial sector. some of the BOP components (e.. industrial. increasing fuel cell performance will also improve heat and power cogeneration and overall system efficiency. which would considerably reduce overall cost and allow for fuel flexibility. unregulated subsidiaries. Regardless of application. Additionally. paper. Development of low-cost fuel processing and gas clean-up is needed to enable fuel flexibility and enable the use of renewable fuels. Marnay C. One of the most important issues is the development of a cost-effective process and sub-system for removing contaminants.  Costs For fuel cells and fuel cell systems to be commercially viable. significant reduction in cost is required. the coupling of high-temperature fuel cells to the fuel gas produced from these sources is an attractive option [14]. and shopping malls. and packaging of fuel cell balance-of-plant components are also heavy barriers to the commercialization of fuel cells. There also may be a market for fuel cells in the field of renewable fuels such as landfill gas. which includes traditional utilities.. which includes the chemical. IV. lower emissions and lower capital costs are the main goals these DG systems need to accomplish. In the effort to maximize the energetic yield from alternative energy sources like biomass. Fuel cells for the distributed power market segment will supply power in the range of 3 MW to 100 MW. office buildings.g. system BOP component durability needs to be improved. Meliopoilois A. fuel cells may be appropriate for niche markets such as computer centres or other customers who require premium power quality and high reliability.

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