- The Department of Energy's national labs partnered with nonprofit organizations to launch the Plug & Play DER Challenge, a call for concepts aimed at improving the interoperability of devices on an increasingly-connected electric grid.
- The challenge is organized and administered by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) along with several other groups and advisors. Initial submissions will be due Sept. 7 with more details on requirements being offered in an Aug. 16 webinar.
- Distributed solar, energy storage, electric vehicle charging and a range of other devices on both sides of the meter are expected to contribute to the grid's increasing complexity. The challenge organizers say its a test the energy sector will need to meet in order to maintain a stable grid and add additional renewable energy.
The challenge and call for concepts is being developed amid a rapid push towards grid modernization in the utility sector. States are increasingly tackling the issues and pressing the industry to modernize. In the last year, the number of policy actions addressing grid modernization jumped 75%, according to recent analysis.
"Integration must be simplified across the board," Steve Widergren, principal engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and interoperability project lead for the consortium, said in a statement. "This event challenges industry to leapfrog to a universal way that all these technologies can connect and operate in harmony with little fuss or bother."
Along with LBNL and PNNL, several nonprofits are involved, including the Smart Electric Power Alliance, the Electric Power Research Institute, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and other project industry advisors.
The groups say the challenge is ultimately aimed at improving interoperability "as a means toward easing technology integration across various devices and systems," including related end-uses involving buildings, electric vehicles and distributed generation.
The first phase of this challenge will require teams to devise specifications for an interface that supports DER integration, and then "develop proposals for demonstrating the integration process with hardware and software."
The need for better resource integration goes beyond bringing more renewables online.
"Lack of interoperability drives up costs, reduces system performance, and creates vulnerabilities," Berkeley Lab research scientist Bruce Nordman said in a statement. "Particularly, in the case of DERs, interoperability-related problems make it more difficult to integrate high amounts of renewable energy sources and energy storage."