Demand response (DR) conjures images of invasive curtailments with customers having to turn off appliances and their HVAC system. It’s often accompanied with a poor customer experience and high opt-out rate, however load shifting provides the same benefits of DR often without the negative customer experience. Simply asking customers to respond to peak-load alerts often yields inconsistent results for the utilities trying to track the watts that did not occur.
By Optimizing water heaters, the second-highest energy-consuming appliances in homes, utilities can shift load from the peak hours with accurate measurement and verification (M&V). By deploying new smart controllers available in the market, the inherent energy storage capabilities of water heaters can be harnessed into a non-invasive, reliable grid resource. Prior to a load shifting event, tanks can be preheated to ensure the customer has hot water during the event and the quantity of load shift can be estimated from the amount of energy used to reheat the tank following the event. High accuracy metering and secure two-way communications provides the utility metrics to perform proper benefit analysis to justify cost recovery.
Armada Power is one of the leaders in the field of water heater optimization and load shifting. The Grid Optimizer controller from Armada Power provides real-time data that enables them to seamlessly preheat the tanks, ensuring that customers have enough hot water to last through most load shifting events. With a revenue grade metering chip and dual thermistor probes, the Grid Optimizer ensures accurate M&V for true cost benefit analysis.
Benefits for Utilities
When a utility deploys Grid Optimizers at customer homes throughout a service area, the water heaters form a “fleet” that serves as a sophisticated load management tool. FleetCommander’s (FC) cloud-based software, in conjunction with the Grid Optimizer, allows for dynamic load shifting with real-time M&V. Utilities have the option to maximize customer comfort, while optimizing grid performance.
By strategically deploying a high concentration of the Armada system on a specific circuit, a utility can control load over peak times to delay or eliminate the need to upgrade a circuit. Deploying the system in this way can allow the company to assign capital to other critical areas.
The Armada system can also help utilities increase the capacity factor of renewable resources. As renewable generation increases, the system can automatically match load, ensuring minimization or elimination of the duck curve.
Security and Resiliency
As the modern energy grid matures, security must be a primary consideration for every equipment manufacturer, not simply an add-on or an afterthought. That’s why security is baked into the design of every Grid Optimizer and FC component, the Armada System. Each Grid Optimizer communicates via encrypted tunnel and is authenticated with unique certificates on every device that prevent it from being cloned or hacked. Even if an individual device could be compromised, the overall system would remain secure.
The ability for grid equipment to withstand and bounce back from outages is another concern. After an extended outage, the rebound peak load can create extensive problems and costs. That’s why each Grid Optimizer includes firmware that allows it to randomize the length of time before it turns back on following an outage, reducing the rebound demand spike, even if the communication network is nonoperational.
Benefits for Customers
In a study comparing a customer’s energy usage with and without the Armada System, energy consumption during on-peak pricing hours was found to be eliminated when the system was in use (and when the Armada system is optimized with time-of-use rates, customers can achieve significant savings, typically between $100 and $150 per year). Yet the adjustments were seamless and transparent to the customer. In their feedback, the customer mentioned these benefits along with not having to reset their water heater with each season and time change.
The Armada system can provide extensive data on individual water heaters and, in addition to managing energy use, FC can analyze this data to provide maintenance alerts for issues like failed elements before customers ever notice a problem. These data sets can be provided through their customer portal or other communication tools, including Armada’s app.
For a load shifting system to work well for utilities and customers, it must be easily adaptable to each service area’s unique needs. Armada Power’s installation options are highly flexible to accommodate a wide range of options.
- Operation. Armada Power can run the system as a full turnkey service in which it hosts and operates the data analytics and forecasting. Or, it can provide a license for the utility to operate the system on its own.
- Training. Whether the system is deployed with Armada Power or with a utility in-house, Armada can provide training for operators to use the software and install Grid Optimizers.
- Bulk purchasing. The larger the fleet, the greater the cost savings and carbon reduction, so the system is designed to be as scalable as possible. Utilities can choose to control hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of devices within a fleet.
- Support. No matter how the system is used, the service team offers 24/7 support.
Armada’s load shifting solution enables customers to go about their daily lives without noticing any disruption while consistently contributing to load shifting. Utilities that offer such solutions to their customers create a virtuous cycle of stable rates, customer comfort, customer satisfaction and ongoing company success.