by Jeff St. John
April 10, 2020

For years, the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been working on technologies that could turn distributed energy resources — specifically, smart solar inverters and batteries — into tools for keeping the grid stable. 

It’s a tough task, requiring second-by-second coordination of behind-the-meter generators, batteries and loads to prevent them from throwing grid voltage and frequencies out of whack — or beyond that, to tap their flexibility to respond positively to grid disruptions. 

As DERs scale up from hundreds to thousands to millions of devices at the grid edge, any attempt to control them with a centralized system is bound to be overwhelmed by communications and computational constraints, given the rapid responses required.