Modern Marvel: The Brains Behind Reliable Renewable Energy

Just like your smart phone, your power grid is a modern marvel—thanks to the development of advanced software that allows the electric system to operate more efficiently and more reliably, as more renewable energy comes online.

At SDG&E, we are pioneering a little-known and invisible piece of technology called a Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS). It’s the brains behind our efforts to build a smarter power grid. DERMS is the software that makes technologies like microgrids, battery storage, fuel cells and solar work together to reliably bring more clean energy to our customers.

Today, 43 percent of the energy we deliver to our customers comes from renewable energy and that number is growing. The amount of clean energy we are providing is among the highest in California and the United States. Nationwide, an average of 8 percent of the energy delivered to customers comes from renewable resources.

One challenge as more renewable energy, such as wind or solar, is brought into the mix is managing the fluctuations in the amount of power being generated over the course of the day. During those times when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing we need a system that can regulate the ups and downs in power generation. This is where DERMS comes in.

We are currently testing the system to remotely operate one of America’s largest utility microgrids. Built by SDG&E, the Borrego Springs Microgrid can independently provide power to the remote desert community, which is susceptible to extended power outages due to extreme weather and other factors. The microgrid is currently connected to two backup generators and onsite battery, and will be fully integrated to a third party-owned 26-megawatt solar farm in the near future.

When the main electrical system is down in Borrego Springs and the microgrid is activated, DERMS looks at what the electric load is and what energy is available at any given time and then optimizes operations on the system. For example, it can regulate the charging of batteries during the day when solar generation is at its peak and discharge that energy when it is needed at night.

Besides implementing DERMS as part of the microgrid project, we are expanding its use to operate two other energy storage systems, and there are plans to integrate a half a dozen more batteries in the coming year. At SDG&E, we are committed to building a smarter grid to allow for more solar and wind energy to power your home and business, while ensuring reliability.