Article
“Distributed energy resources” – abbreviated DERs – is a phrase that’s 
being used a lot more often these days, as onsite solar panels, wind 
turbines, fuel cells and battery-based storage have become common 
power-supply options for larger commercial and industrial facilities.

Ensuring Power Quality Stays High as Power Resources Multiply

Chuck Ross
“Distributed energy resources” – abbreviated DERs – is a phrase that’s being used a lot more often these days, as onsite solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells and battery-based storage have become common power-supply options for larger commercial and industrial facilities. Though DERs – especially solar and wind equipment – were once seen as a way to boost sustainability for these facilities, now owners and managers are seeing real financial advantages to bringing at least some electricity generation onsite. But getting the most from these new resources requires careful planning, along with additional investment in infrastructure capable of managing the connections between multiple power sources.

Having a secondary power source is nothing new for most large schools, hospitals, manufacturing plants and retail stores. In fact, backup generation to protect emergency systems and refrigeration equipment is generally required for many of these facilities by the National Electrical Code. Things get more complicated, though, when additional power sources get added to the mix, especially when owners hope to match those operations to local utility rate incentives. Ensuring that the switch from utility power to an onsite resource occurs without interruption requires some sophisticated paralleling capabilities.

Power control systems manufacturers are meeting this requirement with switchgear, transfer switches and other equipment designed to synchronize generators and renewable resources to each other and to local utility feeds. In addition to managing power transfers, these systems also offer monitoring systems that keep on top of a facility’s real-time energy needs to add and shed loads based on available power supplies.  

The market is likely to increase for these products as DERs become more prevalent. With costs for solar panels and battery-storage systems dropping every year, facility owners and managers will see stronger bottom-line advantages in sourcing at least some of their electricity with their own equipment. But they’ll only realize the financial benefits if they’re able to maintain power quality and reliability at the same high levels they’ve come to expect from their utility connections.
Photo courtesy of ASCO Power Technologies
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