National Solar Appreciation Day
Behind the Scenes in the Sprint Towards Energy Independence
The second Friday of March is designated “National Solar Appreciation Day.” To celebrate progress towards energy independence, Trimark is presenting some of its solutions for overcoming the challenges posed by a carbon-free electric grid.
First of all, one can’t just replace traditional power plants with solar farms. The large spinning mass of conventional generation turbines supports grid stability by meeting generation demands (including night-time generation) and by regulating voltage, frequency, power factor, and VARS.
Second, adopting solar as a major power supplier requires a massive change in paradigm. Originally, the transmission grid was built around a finite number of large, centralized power generation plants with a few regional “peaker” plants. The new grid however integrates over 400 distributed generation resources – and that number is growing. This distributed-generation approach to the electric grid is further complicated because solar plants don’t produce power at night so electricity may not be available when its needed.
Third, to manage the addition of all these new resources, Balancing Authorities define and enforce complex regulations and a 200-day application process that supports comprehensive planning, security, and resource control. The process also addresses the business of buying and selling power on the open energy market.
Here are a few of Trimark’s solutions to support this energy revolution:
Secure Data Communication Between Solar Resource and Balancing Authority
ISOs and Utilities charged with maintaining grid stability face the competing challenges of constantly changing load and managing generation resources whose output can fluctuate when clouds blow over a solar array. As a result, balancing authorities require constant, secure data exchange with resources so they can request real time changes in the amount of power delivered as well as the power characteristics.
Trimark provides secure communication devices that accept and authenticate Dispatch Operating Targets sent by the balancing authority. The gateway device passes commands to the plant control system to increase or curtail generation (or affect other regulation) to fulfill requirements from the balancing authority.
Intelligent Energy Control
Trimark’s SCADA solution combines intelligent automation with real-time control to support stable power at the point of interconnection with the grid. Trimark’s SCADA systems control inverter and battery behavior to accomplish the desired outcome. By monitoring the amount of power and characteristics like voltage, frequency, power factor and VARs, Trimark control systems can respond to changes in as little as 250 milliseconds – about half the time required to blink an eye. That’s the sort of responsiveness that’s required to manage individual solar power plants according to the broad requirements of grid stability.
Connecting a power generation resource to the grid is no small task. Beyond the effort of development, engineering and construction, resources that connect to the grid must meet a host of regulatory requirements to participate in the market. These include Power Purchase Agreements, Large Generation Interconnection Agreements, and New Resource Integration Processes. These agreements typically mandate certified revenue meters; secure data exchange and remote gateways; control systems to execute external commands; meteorological instruments; site networks; and much more. Trimark applies its experience to help developers understand and comply with these requirements.
In addition, participating in the open energy market requires resources to complete a complicated, multi-part application process that can span more than 200 days. Trimark experts know the process well and have helped hundreds of resource owners successfully navigate the challenges.
The cost of building and operating a utility-scale solar plant frequently tops $500 million and can even exceed $1 billion. The reason developers invest in solar power generation in the first place is so they can then sell power for 20 years or more. With billions of dollars in energy transactions on the line, it’s critical that every watt is tracked and reported by a trustworthy third party.
Trimark leads the industry in delivering revenue metering solutions. Metering can be as simple as tracking a single resource or as complex as measuring and accounting for dynamic losses when multiple resources share a gen-tie line. Regardless of the challenge, Trimark’s certified meter systems and inspectors are trusted by power generation resources and ISOs alike.
To accelerate the adoption of solar power (and other renewable generation), many government entities sponsor incentive programs that reward generation of “green” power. The effort of claiming the incentive payment often requires that the generator track its green power with a certified meter then have a Qualified Reporting Entity (QRE) read the meter and validate the data. As part of its Meter Data Management services, Trimark meets the standards for meter reading and reporting set by the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS). Over the past 15 years, Trimark’s metering services have validated revenue data supporting more than $10 Billion in energy transactions and incentive programs.
No One Said It Would be Easy
Transitioning the electric grid from traditional, centralized generation to distributed power production is a decades-long endeavor. Trimark has been here from the beginning. We aim to continue creating solutions to these challenges for decades to come. We’re proud to say that we help “Green the Grid” by providing intelligent energy control, supporting equitable revenue compensation, and guiding owners through the administrative effort of joining the open energy market.
Trimark Associates, Inc. (Trimark) delivers industry-leading solutions to allow real-time operational control, enable informed management of power production operations, and ensure regulatory compliance. Trimark’s turnkey products, engineering, and customer support services control, measure, and manage all aspects of power production that utility-scale power producers require to maintain peak business performance.