The “Virtual Utility” (VU) concept provides intelligent coordination and aggregation of distributed resources through web-based connectivity. ABB developed an extensive portfolio of technology and IP which is now being made available for license, as an “enabler” in distributed generation markets. This comes as a result of the company’s recent move to tighten its business focus.
The ABB VU technology is centered on an internet-accessible control center by which clients or aggregates of clients can intelligently monitor and control distributed resource assets. Both distributed generation (DG) and distributed storage assets can be connected by the VU into a single highly flexible integrated power resource.
Both utilities and large consumers of energy will use the VU. Once commercialized, the VU can be sold as either an enterprise-wide “micro SCADA-like” system or as an Internet service provider where customers can call in to monitor and control their assets. The value provided by such a product could consist of any or all of the following:
– Universal monitoring ? the VU can offer the possibility of monitoring all distributed resource assets regardless of type, manufacturer, or date of manufacture.
– Power reliability ? with interconnected DG one can guarantee higher availability for important loads.
– Peak shaving ? fast dispatchable generation can avoid maximum demand surcharges and curtailment orders.
– Network optimization ? connection of DG units can be optimized to ensure the most economic and secure network; microgrids can be operated where bulk power supply reinforcement cannot be justified.
– Network safety ? protection settings can be monitored and calculated dynamically to ensure that power flows do not affect network protection parameters.
– Energy trading ? aggregated units can provide surplus energy from non-DG sources, which then can be sold.
Several business models are possible using such tools. Revenues can possibly be generated proactively ? by engaging in peak shaving, energy trading, premium power, etc. or by providing a service bureau business to allow others to access and control the DG equipment through a server that contains the required intelligent applications and communication technology. This latter arrangement relieves the customer of the responsibility of maintaining the database, updating software applications, etc. and provides the financial attractiveness of a lease rather than a purchase.
The Virtual Utility can have a significant impact on the bottom-line of a DG project or series of projects. Although the cost of the control and communication system is usually a small part of the cost of the project, its performance can be a determining factor in overall economic success. An intelligent control system can ensure the lowest energy and maintenance costs, the largest profit, the best payback, or even the greatest system reliability. It also can aggregate many small power generators into a more marketable mass.
The VU concept can be applied to both new and existing assets. As a minimum, the retrofit to existing emergency back-up generators would provide value in automatic testing and reporting. Further benefits of peak shaving and aggregation of load can also be realized depending on the VU owner.
VU also solves another serious future issue for distributed generation — the ability to connect many various distributed devices involving different technologies and manufacturers. VU thus becomes the infrastructure for all distributed resources and an enabler for market expansion.
The ABB concept is focused on low installation and operating cost, flexible control intelligence, and universal adaptability along with possible integration with existing power system assets. Low costs are achieved through technologies such as a browser based data server, wireless LAN, and the communication and control network. Control intelligence is achieved via economic planning and optimization algorithms, utilizing situation specific dispatching levels, and a hybrid central / local control logic. This platform is universally accessible to all distributed resources through intelligent electronic device configuration and information handling processes.
This intellectual property is represented by a patent portfolio, technical documentation, business model and market evaluation, and technical expertise related to hardware, software, and analytical tools. Technical assistance would be available to assist the integration of this technology into a current system or developing and commercializing a new system.
For more information, contact UFTO, if you or any company you work with might have an interest.