Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) launched multiple technology demonstration projects in San Jose to advance integration of distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar and battery storage, further unlocking benefits of the electric grid.

PG&E is teaming up with GE to demonstrate a distributed energy resource management system (DERMS), with Enphase Energy to install and test smart inverters, and with SolarCity to install and test smart inverters and battery storage systems for private solar customers. The demonstrations will evaluate to what extent the DERMS technology enhances the stability and power quality of the grid and optimizes solar generation and power-flow management, as more customers adopt solar.

“The rapid growth of distributed energy resources has ushered in a new era of electric distribution, and we’re seeing the smarter grid emerging as a reliability, storage and interconnection system that compliments the new energy technologies that our customers are using in their homes. As this dynamic, two-way operating environment develops, PG&E continues to embrace and test innovative technologies that improve electric reliability and equip our customers with valuable services and products that support their choices to adopt clean energy,” said Geisha Williams, president, PG&E Electric.

Innovating in Northern California

To support DERMS, up to 150 residential customers and up to 20 commercial customers in San Jose will receive solar smart inverters and/or behind-the-meter battery storage systems. The project will demonstrate how smart inverters and energy storage can be used with DERMS to optimize electric distribution. The demonstration is expected to commence this September and end in December 2017.

These projects are a part of the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) – a program that enables California investor-owned utilities to develop Smart Grid technology demonstration and deployment projects and evaluate how they support safety, reliability, and affordability objectives for the benefit of their customers.

PG&E believes in enabling customer choice and is evolving to meet customer needs:

PG&E has more private solar than any other utility in the country, with more than 250,000 private solar customers connected to the energy grid. The company connects approximately 6,000 new solar customers to the grid monthly, or approximately one every seven minutes.
One in five electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States is registered in PG&E’s service area – more than 200,000 EVs in California and over 85,000 in PG&E’s service area.
PG&E operates the largest, single-building EV charging installation in the state of California at its Bishop Ranch campus in San Ramon.
Nearly 60 percent of the energy PG&E delivers comes from sources that emit no greenhouse gases. By the year 2020, PG&E expects that number will grow to approximately 65 percent.
Similarly, PG&E expects a dramatic increase of DERs connecting to its grid between now and 2025, making it essential to thoughtfully plan and enhance its grid to effectively address that growth. A smarter energy grid provides critical infrastructure for more clean energy options, such as solar and EVs.

Collaborating to bring innovation to clean energy

PG&E is collaborating with multiple companies to execute this technology project in San Jose. PG&E is working with GE’s Grid Solutions business to execute the development of the new DERMS system behind this technology project. GE is the world’s Digital Industrial Company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive.

Enphase Energy Inc., a global energy technology company based in Petaluma, Calif., is providing solar smart inverters for the project. SolarCity, a nationwide solar power provider headquartered in San Mateo, Calif. with more than 30 locations serving customers across the state – is providing solar smart inverters as well as the residential battery storage systems for the project.

The residential battery storage systems will interface with the DERMS to evaluate whether and how customer-sited energy storage can be used to operationally support the grid during periods of high electric demand.

PG&E is in the final stages of vendor selection for deployment of battery storage systems for commercial installations.

As PG&E works to create the smart grid that advances the integration of DERs and enables greater customer choice in clean energy options, cities in PG&E’s service area are adopting “smart city” visions to meet sustainability, social, and economic goals.

"Demonstrating new and innovative technologies is a key component of our Smart City Vision to enhance city services and the quality of life in San Jose. As the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is an ideal test bed for this kind of energy-management technology that has the potential to help promote a smarter energy grid and improve energy conservation," said Mayor Sam Liccardo.

While the further integration of DERs introduces some operational complexity, automated technology such as DERMS could one day help PG&E enhance decision making by gathering, analyzing, and visualizing new and expanding data streams to improve operations, reduce costs and support new services.

“This work should advance industry understanding and help us further assess how to not just to manage DERs on the grid, but ultimately turn them into more effective grid resources,” said Kevin Dasso, PG&E’s vice president of Electric Strategy and Asset Management.

DERs play a central role in PG&E’s vision for the Grid of Things™ – a “plug and play” distribution grid platform that facilitates emerging energy technologies to be interconnected with each other and integrated into the larger grid. Just like with the “Internet of Things,” grid assets can interact with each other to optimize group coordination for the benefit of customers.

“We are living in one of the most exciting times in the energy industry, and these demonstrations are the latest examples of PG&E’s many technology investments to improve our operations supporting clean energy options and lay the foundation for the future,” said Williams.