Distributed Energy Resources (DER) such as renewable generation, storage, flexible demand, and smart appliances are revolutionizing the electricity industry. Electric utilities are facing major upheavals on a number of fronts including deregulation and proliferation of Distributed Generation (DG) installations. Emerging technologies and evolving regulations are propelling utilities to deal with challenges such as load defection, renewable energy, and increasing expectations of reliability and security of supply. "CIOs are concerned about the risk of their critical systems being brought down by a major natural disaster, unexpected brown out or cyber-attack," begins Sunil Cherian, CEO, Spirae. "Electric utilities have to maintain a reliable and securely operated distribution system with large amounts of variable generation, storage, and adaptive loads," he adds. Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, Spirae is transforming the business model from one-way electricity delivery to omni directional energy services transactions between prosumers, service providers and markets.
At the heart of Spirae's technology is the ability to visualize the functionality of an electric system in real-time, paired with the control software to direct the operations according to logic driven by market needs. The Spirae Wave platform, a highly distributed control system, allows utilities to absorb assets from any source and dispatch them for optimal grid operations. The energy attributes like generation, flexible demand, and storage are abstracted to their basic capabilities by a software process called Energy Resource Manager (ERM). Energy resources are utilized alone or in groups by a second software process called a Control Area Manager (CAM) to meet local objectives such as power flow, voltage, and ramp rates. A third software process called the Distribution Network Manager (DNM) coordinates multiple CAMs. "Energy consumers can use the Wave platform to optimize energy consumption, market participation, and resiliency, utilizing its grid-connected and microgrid capabilities," explains Cherian. Further, the platform ensures that different applications such as Distributed Energy Resources (DER) monitoring and control, demand response, advanced storage management, and microgrid can co-exist without compromising grid reliability.
For instance, the municipal utility in Fort Collins, Colorado collaborated with Spirae inan U.S. Department of Energy funded initiative to demonstrate a coordinated system of distributed resources. Their goal was to reduce the peak load on a set of feeders by at least 20 percent and provide flexibility to a community center with significant rooftop solar.Spirae recruited resources such as photovoltaic arrays, and natural gas and diesel generators; and flexible loads including ones that could be managed through building management systems in the project. The community center was covered using natural gas and diesel generation, solar PV, and flexible demand. Spirae's control system managed the distributed energy resources system to reduce peak demand on the feeders when requested and provided seamless grid connected operation, transition to island, and re-synchronization to the utility grid for the community center.
Spirae has streamlined the labor-intensive process of modeling, configuring, and field engineering customer systems and reduction in soft costs associated with distributed energy system deployment. "With the push of a few software buttons, Wave can now carry out tasks that PLC and SCADA developersused to take weeks or months to complete," delineates Cherian. "This ease of design, deployment, and scaling translates into tremendous value for our customers, and a high bar for our competition to scale," he adds.
Spirae's future is chartered to address immediate and anticipated market demand with a modular, scalable,and highly adaptable control solution, with functionality being driven in collaboration with their major customers. "Spirae expects to increase the portfolio of Wave applications including building APIs for third party application development and empowering channel partners to design and deliver solutions for end customers," concludes Cherian on an optimistic note.