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May 17, 2018

DER Disruption: Understanding the Unintended Consequences of Renewable Energy

Power quality has always been an issue for industrial consumers and as distributed energy resources proliferate, those problems could become even more widespread.

Distribution grid operators are concerned that high penetration of connected distributed energy resources (DERs) could lead to grid instability and create outages at end-user sites, such as commercial buildings or industrial plants. “Today, we don’t fully understand grid behavior under varying DER conditions, and are not sure how to address this properly,” said Fred Oshiro, Engineer from Maui Electric in Hawaii, during a DistrbuTECH panel discussion in January 2018.

Indeed, industrial consumers such as factories, labs with expensive equipment, and tool fabrication shops can also be impacted by unexplained malfunctions, resets, and shutdowns — all without any apparent power-related causes. Power supply units overheat and occasionally catch fire without circuit breakers ever tripping. Additional problems have been observed with street lighting control, interruptions in Power Line Communication (PLC), and even incorrect energy meter readings.

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