A project to demonstrate that utilities or industries can quickly reduce demand for electricity, preventing the need to ramp up electricity production, is being called a success.
The city of Richland, Energy Northwest and the Bonneville Power Administration participated in the demonstration project from early 2015 to early 2016.
The concept, “demand response,” builds on the idea that while individual electrical loads are relatively small compared to the scale of a regional transmission grid, the coordinated decrease of many loads at once can help meet regional electricity needs without the need to build more electric generating stations or transmission lines.
The nonprofit Peak Load Management Alliance, a national group of experts and utilities advancing the demand response concept, has named the Northwest demonstration project one of the nation’s best initiatives for 2015.
During the demonstration project, utilities reduced energy usage about 80 times as signals were sent out to them via Energy Northwest when BPA declared a need to reduce demand with just minutes of notice.
“When they wanted to test the program to reduce power, they would initiate through our equipment a demand reduction request, which would trigger our dynamic voltage reduction system,” said Clint Whitney, acting operations superintendent for Richland.
It showed a marketable asset that benefits BPA as well as the city of Richland in reducing peak demands when costs are at their highest.
Clint Whitney, city of Richland
Reducing voltage would reduce power by about 1.5 percent to 2 percent, which would not impact electricity customers.
“It showed a marketable asset that benefits BPA as well as the city of Richland in reducing peak demands when costs are at their highest,” Whitney said.
Demand response has the promise to help BPA balance electricity production, including from intermittent sources like wind, with demand for electricity.
The energy going into BPA’s electrical system from hundreds of generators has to be matched second-by-second with the energy going out to thousands of customers or the system is disrupted.
In the past, BPA has provided balancing services by using its hydro system to provide more or less electricity as needed. But if a hydroelectric generator is being used for balancing, it can only run at partial capacity so generation can be ramped up quickly if more electricity is needed.
More balancing is needed as wind generation makes up a quarter to a third of possible electricity generation resources. Other electrical generation must be available to quickly replace production to balance power on the grid or the grid must be balanced by quickly reducing demand for electricity.
Demand response also can reduce individual customer’s power bills, because Richland pays more for BPA power at peak times.
Cowlitz County PUD and Pend Oreille County PUD also participated, with the North Pacific Paper Corp., a pulp and paper manufacturing facility in Longview, shutting down larger motors on short notice, when directed.
The project was possible because of Energy Northwest’s Demand Response Aggregated Control System, which sent the signal to cut power use to utilities and also the signal that power usage could return to normal. The system was based at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center, an incubator facility in Richland paid for by the Department of Energy.
Energy Northwest and BPA are continuing to evaluate the results of the project.