From the Bottom Up: Designing a Decentralized Power System
Cross-Discipline Team Envisions the Grid of the Future
In the past few years, this vision has grown from a theory on whiteboards to real-power experiments on lab hardware.
It’s called “Autonomous Energy Grids” (AEG), an effort to ensure the grid of the future can manage a growing base of intelligent energy devices, variable renewable energy, and advanced controls.
“The future grid will be much more distributed and too complex to control with today’s techniques and technologies,” said Benjamin Kroposki, director of NREL’s Power Systems Engineering Center. “We need a path to get there—to reach the potential of all these new technologies integrating into the power system.”
The AEG effort envisions a self-driving power system—a very “aware” network of technologies and distributed controls that work together to efficiently match bi-directional energy supply to energy demand. This is a hard pivot from today’s system, in which centralized control is used to manage one-way electricity flows to consumers along power lines that spoke out from central generators.
Instead, AEG grids are composed within one another, like a fractalized group of microgrids. Sections, or “cells” of AEG use pervasive communication and controllability to continually pursue their best operating conditions, which adjust to the temperament of customer demand, available generation, and pricing.