System Allows Small Renewable Generators to Name their Price

System Allows Small Renewable Generators to Name their Price

Anyone who likes to dabble in shares will appreciate the fact that they can set buy and sell prices that allow them to automatically deal in shares when the price is right. It adds a touch of convenience to the process and means that you can get the price you desire without staring at a screen all day. What if it was possible for owners of renewable energy equipment, such as solar panels to do the same? As well as allowing those owners the ability to maximise their investments, the price variation could also ease pressure on our electrical grids.

That’s the idea behind an initiative from the US Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, who have developed technology that automatically adjusts a home’s power use in response to fluctuating prices that are established by real-time market demand. The new technology is called the Transactive Energy Service System (TESS). It is also able to distribute power across the grid to increase the resiliency of the grid and save both the consumer and the electric company money.

For the last month, TESS has been trialled in four homes, and there are plans to deploy it in hundreds more homes in the northeastern U.S. over the next two years. The test-site homes are in economically disadvantaged areas, to demonstrate how TESS is an affordable, efficient way to provide energy equity. The system puts the consumers in control, setting the price at which they’re willing to reduce their power consumption and the price at which they’re willing to sell energy they generate from solar panels or other sources back into the grid, says Dave Chassin, group manager of the Grid Integration Systems and Mobility (GISMo) laboratory at SLAC and principal investigator on the TESS project.

The system is based around a device that is about the size of a smartphone. The device controls the home's electricity use based on energy prices that are recalculated every five minutes. TESS only controls devices that are flexible in their electricity use – things like a thermostat or refrigerator that don't need to be on all the time to be serving their purpose. The TESS device tells the utility company at what price electricity needs to be before the consumer will cut back on consumption, and what price they’d increase their contribution of renewable energy to the grid. When the price of electricity changes, TESS automatically changes the amount of consumption on behalf of the consumer in a way that reduces their cost and maximizes their revenue. The information is exchanged via a cloud-based platform. Consumers who have TESS devices in their homes can also choose to get paid more for the electricity they produce and contribute to the grid and pay less for the electricity they consume. The system is fully automated and responds to price changes as they happen.

TESS researchers plan to test how well energy storage can be incorporated into the system to increase its resilience and reliability, particularly in the event of an emergency. Funding for TESS comes from the DOE’s Office of Electricity. Funding for TESS Connected Communities comes from the DOE’s Building Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.